Fire is the biggest threat to Norway's thousand-year-old practice of building in wood. The country has 28 stave churches and 180 areas of closely knit wooden buildings that are particularly vulnerable to fire. In its budget proposal for 2015, the Government reinforces efforts to combat fires in clusters of wooden buildings and stave churches.
“The Government’s priority is to protect clusters of wooden buildings and stave churches from fire by increasing the budget by twenty million. This is important in order to reduce the loss of national treasures. At the same time, this supports the Government’s general desire to improve framework conditions for private owners of heritage sites,” said Climate and Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft.
Clusters of old wooden buildings are found throughout the country, but most are along the coast, especially on the Oslo Fjord and in Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder. They contain a total of fifteen to twenty thousand buildings, most of which are private homes.
Norway has traditionally built in wood. Historically, our towns have suffered many fires, so little remains of this kind of historical architecture.
The fire in Lærdal last spring drew attention to the vulnerability of these areas of wooden buildings. Such architectural environments further the sense of identity of the inhabitants of the area. In many places they also play a key role in value creation for tourism.
The Government will give priority to those local authorities with contingency plans for their protected or protection-worthy properties and an interest in partial financing. Funding will be focused on areas of greatest value and with limited potential for rapid and extensive firefighting.
“This must be a joint effort where we invest today to preserve key values for the future,” concluded Sundtoft.