Wildfire on German-Czech Border Threatens Tourist Area

A large wildfire on the German-Czech border is spreading and threatening to destroy a forested national park popular with tourists.

The fire in the region called Bohemian Switzerland on the Czech side and the Saxon Switzerland National Park on the German side, which started at the weekend, had seemed to be under control but spread again early on Thursday, German news agency dpa reported.

Hundreds of firefighters on both sides of the border, with help from neighbouring Poland and Slovakia, were battling the flames, while local authorities warned tourists to stay away.

About 250 hectares of forest are currently burning and eight firefighting helicopters were helping to douse the flames, dpa reported.

Another large forest fire in the Elbe-Elster district in the eastern German state of Brandenburg also flared up again on Wednesday evening, local authorities said.

Fire brigades have been on the scene since Sunday with officials saying the wildfire, which has led to evacuations and the destruction of some homes, was most likely caused by human carelessness.

Earlier in the week smoke from the fire could be smelled over large parts of the Czech Republic, including Prague, which is 100 kilometres away from the national park.

Germany’s minister for agriculture said on Wednesday night the government would help tackle the fires and praised those already working to extinguish them.

Germany’s army has sent several military helicopters to both fires to support local units.

“The emergency forces are already doing a great job here,” Cem Ozdemir said.

The fight against the fire in Brandenburg has been further complicated because some areas are contaminated with Second World War ammunition and can only be extinguished from the air by helicopters.

It is too dangerous for firefighters to enter these areas as old ammunition triggered by the heat or by people stepping on it can explode at any time.

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