|Borgund Stavkirke, an old church|
by A.M.C Knutsson
At 11 pm on Saturday the 18th of January a fire erupted in the village of Lærdalsøyri, in the municipality of Lærdal, Norway. The fire, which is believed to have started in a house on Kyrkjegatan, spread rapidly towards the centre of the village due to strong easterly winds. These winds also hindered the extinguishing work and not until 5 pm the following day the fire was finally under control. 
Despite the ferocity of the fire, described by observers as an ‘inferno’, no one is reported to have died or gone missing. However, many people suffered from smoke inhalation and 400 people were forced to seek medical attention.
Whilst Lærdal might be small, it has a grand history. The region is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed West Norwegian Fjord landscape and boasts sites such as the old Lærdalsøyri village and the Borgund Stave Church, the best-preserved stave church in Norway.
|Synneva Eris House (Photo Arlen Bidne)|
The history of the old village of Lærdalsøyri reaches back about a thousand years. Since the Middle Ages it has been an important trading centre for the surrounding villages. The buildings that make up present day Lærdalsøyri reach back to the 18th and 19th centuries and are an important part of the Norwegian wooden heritage. Among the buildings in Lærdalsøyri there are 161 protected wooden buildings. In a statement from the National Heritage Board about the fire, the site is described thus:
The wooden houses in Lærdalsøyri are among the most important wood-house milieu in Norway, in line with towns like Røros, Bergen and Old Stavanger.
Unfortunately, despite early reports of little damage to the built heritage, several buildings have been severely damaged with some being permanently destroyed. Thirty-five houses are reported to have burnt down of which six or seven have great historical value. Whilst the fire does not appear to have reached the oldest parts of Lærdalsøyri, the true extent of the fire is yet to be established.
The Local "Norway's News in English" reports "Listed villa destroyed in Lærdal blaze" that the Synneva Eris House was burned to the ground.
List of recognised heritage sites in Lærdal
 http://www.svd.se/nyheter/utrikes/branden-i-laerdal-ater-under-kontroll_8907804.svd, (19 Jan 2014), accessed 23/01/14