Tourists may return to some areas of Czech Switzerland national park

Residents of the village of Hřensko who were forced to evacuate their homes for the past three weeks have begun to return to the area this morning.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 24.07.2022 14:16:00 (updated on 16.08.2022) Reading time: 29 minutes

A Donio page has been set up for those people and places affected by the fire.

Update (Aug. 16/3:00 p.m.) Tourists are slowly finding their way back to Bohemian Switzerland, where a devastating fire broke out on July 24. Czech firefighters and units from abroad battled the blaze for almost three weeks. The affected area is still being guarded by volunteer and professional firefighters and district officials. The main attractions, Pravčická brána and the gorges in Hřensko, remain closed, but tourists can follow marked routes to places not affected by the fire.

The Ministry of the Environment has extended restrictions on entry to the Czech Switzerland National Park until Aug. 31. In addition to the fire-affected areas and forests, there is a blanket ban on entry at night from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Update (Aug. 16/12:52 p.m.)  The Czech Police are investigating the extensive wildfire in the Czech Switzerland National Park on suspicion of the crime of endangering the safety of the public and not public endangering out of negligence as it was originally qualified, police spokeswoman Eliška Kubíčková said. A special team of regional detectives is looking into the case.

"On the basis of the assessment of the information and pieces of evidence gained so far we have reclassified the case to the endangering of the safety of the public crime. The cause of the fire is still being examined," Kubíčková told ČTK. The police are inspecting the scene of the crime in particular sectors with the aim of finding the fire’s epicenter.

UPDATE (Aug. 15/12:17 p.m.)  Drones have again found six places with increased temperature in the Czech Switzerland National Park, recently devastated by a huge wildfire, regional fire corps spokeswoman Lukáš Marvan told journalists. The places are situated near the Pravčická brána, Gabrielina stezka, and Borový důl. Firefighters are dousing the places with water.

On the German side, where the fire continues, the Hrensko border crossing has remained closed. Police spokeswoman Eliška Kubíčková said that according to the latest information, the border crossing might reopen later today.

Since Saturday morning, locals who have a permit have been allowed to return to the evacuated villages Hrensko, Mezná, and Mezní Louka. There are about 80 houses in the area of Mezna and Mezní Louka, two-thirds of which are occupied by weekend-house owners. The road between Hrensko and Mezni Louka is still closed.

UPDATE (Aug. 14/12:00 p.m.) Drones with thermal imaging detected six areas of increased temperatures at the extinguished Czech Switzerland National Park last night, but no outbreaks of fire have been reported. Firefighters will continue to monitor for potential threats in the coming weeks, but management of the area has been handed to park officials.

The village of Hřensko is currently accessible by road 62, but other roads into the area, including from Germany, remain closed until further notice. According to police spokeswoman Ilona Gazdošová, the border crossing at the park between the Czech Republic and Germany will remain closed through at least Monday.

UPDATE (Aug. 13/12:00 p.m.) People who were evacuated from the village of Hřensko during the forest fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park over the past three weeks began to return to their homes this morning. The area is also expected to reopen to tourists this weekend, though the Ministry of the Environment has extended a preventative ban on entering the National Park during night hours from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. through August 31.

Return to Hřensko for residents was possible from 9:00 a.m. this morning, though areas in Mezná and Mezní Louka are only accessible with a special permit. Some roads are still closed, with Hřensko currently only accessible via the Vysoká Lípa area.

UPDATE (Aug. 13/9:00 a.m) Firefighters have officially extinguished the blaze at the Czech Switzerland National Park as of Friday evening, and management of the area has now been handed over to park officials. The fire lasted nearly three weeks, and was the largest forest fire in the history of the Czech Republic.

The fire involved the participation of 6,000 firefighters and 400 pieces of equipment, including firefighting helicopters and airplanes. Efforts were greatly aided by volunteers, who provided food and other necessities to the firefighters.

"Such a massive deployment of forces and resources is completely unprecedented," Vladimir Vlček, general director of the Czech Republic's Fire and Rescue Services, told local media.

Firefighting corps from around the Czech Republic that assisted in putting out the fire are now returning home, while regional firefighters and volunteers will remain in the area to monitor for potential outbreaks and assist with cleanup.

UPDATE (Aug. 12/12:52 p.m) Firefighters in Czech Switzerland are approaching the final stages in extinguishing the blaze. "In the course of the afternoon, the last two sections should be handed over. This should de facto eliminate the fire," Fire Department general director Vladimír Vlček said.

"More than 6,000 firefighters took turns at the fire station during rotations. More than 400 pieces of equipment were deployed," Vlček said at a press conference. He thanked everyone who participated in extinguishing the fire in Hřensko. He mentioned professional and volunteer firefighters, the police, the army, and firefighters from Poland and Slovakia. He also appreciated the help of planes from Italy and Sweden as well as of planes from the Air Fire Service.

UPDATE (Aug. 12/10:15 a.m) Firefighters have extinguished several outbreaks that have reappeared in the vicinity of Pravčická brána and Bouřňák. Of the original 1,000 firefighters who fought the fire at the beginning of the week, approximately 120 remain at the scene.

On Thursday, Aug. 11, firefighters intervened on about 50 hectares. The total area where they operated was roughly 3,600 hectares. The park administration has already taken over most of the territory, waiting for the transfer of around 800 hectares.

UPDATE (Aug. 11/1:05 p.m) Firefighters reduced the area of ​​the fire in Czech Switzerland to 50 hectares. initially, the fire affected an area of over 1000 hectares. The number of firefighters at the fire has decreased to 630. Drones with thermal cameras discovered several outbreaks in the vicinity of Pravčická brána and Bouřňák this morning. Firefighters are working to extinguish them. The outbreaks are small and are not spreading, the fire department announced this on Twitter.

Evacuated residents from Hřensko and parts of Mezná and Mezní Louka will gradually return home starting on Saturday, Environment Minister Anna Hubáčková said. Dozens of people from Mezná and Mezní Louka had to evacuate due to an extensive fire on July 25. Three houses were destroyed by fire in Mezná, and other properties in the village were also damaged.

The area will continue to be closed to tourists. Restrictions on entry to the national park, which were set to expire on Friday, will be extended by the ministry until the end of the summer holidays on Aug. 31. Entry to the park will be completely prohibited from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

"We will specify the tourist routes that will be opened. We will also open some small sections," Hubáčková said. According to the minister, the park will be closed at night because tourists often make campfires at that time.

So far, the national park administration has taken over three extinguished areas from the firefighters, namely near the village of Janov, part of the area northwest of Vysoké Lípa, and part of the area east of Pravčická brána. The administration will take over another part today, the firemen should hand over the last area on Friday. 

UPDATE (Aug. 10/12:00 p.m.) Firefighters have handed over another extinguished section of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park to the parks administration today. The area near the Pravčická brána narrow sandstone rock formation is bordered by a "defensive" line cleared of wood which will be available for the rescue services up to the border with Germany in the north, a fire department spokesperson told reporters.

The devastating fire in the national park broke out 18 days ago.

The park administration will now call on volunteer firefighters to monitor the site for the threat of new fires. A park sector near the village of Janov was handed over to the parks administration on Monday. On Tuesday, firemen handed over part of a third sector near Vysoka Lipa. Inhabitants evacuated from Hřensko and its outlying parts, Mezná and Mezní Louka have not yet been able to return.

Once the entire site of the fire is handed over, at least five fire units will remain to monitor conditions.

Some 800 firefighters are currently present in an area of about 60 hectares. Their presence will be reduced in the days to come. Drones continue to uncover small fires present in the national park. But the threat of their spread is low as they are flaming on burnt ground.

UPDATE (Aug. 7/12:00 p.m.) The forest fire at the Czech Switzerland National Park could be completely extinguished by the end of this week, Martin Kavka, spokesman for the fire brigade, told reporters this morning. Kavka did not want to speculate when the fire may be extinguished yesterday, but had a more positive outlook this morning.

Additionally, the two southern sectors of the fire that have already been extinguished will likely be handed over to park officials within the next few days, ahead of the previous estimate of Friday. Firefighters had previously broken down the fire into four sectors; the southern two have now been completely extinguished.

UPDATE (Aug. 6/1:30 p.m.) Czech firefighters have managed to extinguish the southern half of the forest fire at the Czech Switzerland National Park as of Saturday morning. While a smaller contingent of firefighters remains in the areas to monitor for potential outbreaks, crews would like to hand over the area to local officials by Friday, August 12.

Firefighters have broken down the forest fire into four sectors, with the two southern sectors now being described as extinguished. "We would be happy if intervention in the southern sectors could end next Friday, and we could hand over the territory to the national park authorities," said Martin Kavka, a spokesperson for the regional firefighters. Kavka did not want to speculate as to when the two upper sectors might be extinguished.

UPDATE (Aug. 5/2:15 p.m.) Firefighters are closer to extinguishing the fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park, Firefighting Authority general director Vladimír Vlček told journalists today. It was assumed that this would already happen by Friday, but there is the complication of tremendous heat and a shortage of rains, Vlček said.

As a result, the deadline was postponed and it is not yet clear when the mission will be declared finished. After this happens, the residents of the evacuated town Hřensko and its outlying parts, Mezná and Mezní Louka, will be able to return to their homes. The return of hikers will be a matter of discussion between the national park, the Environment Ministry, and local municipalities.

UPDATE (Aug. 5/10:40 a.m.) Thousands of firefighters continue to intervene in the fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park. They have already managed to reduce the fire area to approximately 440 hectares. 

However, fires are still burning near Pravčická brána and on Bouřňák Hill. One of the hidden fires also flared up in the morning in the area above Hřensko. Canadair planes from Italy, which helped put out the fire a week ago, will arrive at Vodochody airport around noon. According to the latest information, the fire above Hřensko has not yet been extinguished.

Meanwhile, high temperatures are complicating the intervention for firefighters. Rescuers have to rotate more often, which is why there are still about a thousand of them in Czech Switzerland. According to meteorologists, temperatures are expected to rise to 31 degrees on Friday. In the afternoon and evening, they expect thunderstorms accompanied by hail or gusty winds.

UPDATE (Aug. 4/10:30 a.m.) Firefighters battling the large-scale fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park will continue to intervene in inaccessible terrain today, including near Pravčická brana and Křídelní stěna. New outbreaks appeared on Wednesday.

The massive intervention will last at least until Friday. Firefighters managed to reduce the area of ​​the fire to about 450 hectares. Originally, the fire affected an area roughly twice as large. About 1,000 firefighters are still on the scene and are looking for hidden fires as they advance to inaccessible areas. 

The Ministry of the Environment said on Tuesday that in mid-August it will announce a subsidy program for the reconstruction of municipalities affected by the fire.

UPDATE (Aug. 3/2:00 p.m.) Firefighters in the Czech Switzerland National Park have reached the German border with water on land and joined their German counterparts.

German helicopters are now flying over the area, fire corps spokesman Martin Kavka said. Five helicopters along with two planes from Sweden are also assisting in the fight against the fire. The area around the rock formation Pravčická brána, one of the main tourist attractions in the park, remains the most critical one. There is also an observation deck at Pravčická brána. From there, firefighters monitor where there might be hidden outbreaks.

All regions have provided the national park with personal thermal vision cameras and special 20-liter water bags that firefighters can carry. The firefights take equipment by foot to reach hidden fire epicenters. Due to the weight of the gear and the heat, fire crews are rotating more often.

The firefighters are intervening in an area smaller than 500 hectares today, while the fire originally affected an area twice as large. They are now trying to connect with German firefighters on the Saxon Switzerland border so that they can extinguish the fire on the German side.

Firefighters are battling the blaze regardless of the border. "We do not rule out that the German equipment could extinguish some hidden epicenter here, and our helicopters may do the same for them," Kavka said.

UPDATE (Aug. 3/10:30 a.m.) Last night, firefighters focused on fire defense, monitoring extinguished locations, and liquidation of repeatedly ignited fires. There are over 1,000 firefighters, more than 200 tankers, and other equipment on site. Five helicopters and Swedish planes will be in the air today. Antonov planes will be deployed in the afternoon.

According to estimates, the response to the fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park will probably cost hundreds of millions of crowns. It is not yet possible to calculate the costs exactly, but the deployment of the units alone costs up to CZK 20 million per day. 

Several firefighters were injured during the intervention in Czech Switzerland, and some have required hospitalization. One firefighter was seriously injured when he fell off a rock.

After nine days of fighting, on Monday, Aug. 1, firefighters announced that they had managed to get the fire in Czech Switzerland under control. The area of ​​the fire was gradually reduced from 1,060 to 498 hectares. In the coming days, however, the intervention may be complicated again by rising temperatures and stronger winds.

UPDATE (Aug. 2/9:00 a.m.)  The fire in Czech Switzerland, which broke out on July 24, was contained on Monday evening, and it is no longer spreading. Firefighters will continue their efforts to extinguish the fire today. There are 1,028 firefighters from all over the country on the scene with 341 pieces of firefighting equipment. They are now using drones to check the condition of the gorges of the Kamenice river. They will focus on fighting the fire in this area with the help of land and air technology.

During Monday's efforts, firefighters managed to reduce the area of ​​the fire from 1,060 hectares to 606 hectares, which they are still extinguishing. Today firefighters will move around Křídelní stény, near Hřensko, and the vicinity of the peaks of Bouřňák and Větrovec. 

Firefighters anticipate that progress will be slow in difficult-to-access terrain. They have to cut their way with chainsaws and use climbing ropes. Although helicopters and airplanes fly over the terrain, each location must also be reached by land. "Helicopters drop water on the fire scene, but extinguishing, searching for hidden fires, and intervening under overhangs is up to the ground units. They have to double-check," Ústí nad Labem regional firefighting spokesman Milan Rudolf said.

The fire could be completely localized in a matter of days. After that residents of Mezná, Mezní Louka, and Hřensko, who had been evacuated, could return to their homes.

UPDATE (Aug. 1/3:10 p.m.) To help the residents of Czech Switzerland people have collected approximately CZK 9 million. Most of it came together through the Donio platform, where donors sent 8.6 million.

An anonymous donor donated CZK 2 million to the Donio platform today. This is apparently the highest amount that anyone has donated to date. 

UPDATE (Aug. 1/2:35 p.m.) Some 900 firefighters are extinguishing the fire that started in the Czech Switzerland National Park on July 24, they have more than 200 water tanks, five airplanes, and 18 helicopters including 12 from Germany. The firefighters highlighted the help of the Swedish aircraft.

Health workers treated about fifty injured firefighters on Sunday. Most of them suffered light injuries, one had to be airlifted to the regional hospital in Ústí nad Labem, but his life is not threatened.

The evacuated inhabitants of Mezná, Mezní Louka, and Hřensko will be allowed to return when the area will be safe. Thanks to the reduction of the endangered area, the evacuated residents of the village Vysoká Lípa could return home during the weekend.

UPDATE (Aug. 1/8:50 a.m.) Firefighters in Czech Switzerland regrouped their forces and equipment overnight, and other units from all over the Czech Republic arrived. Today they will continue extinguishing the fire in Czech Switzerland. 

Aviation technology, including helicopters from Germany, is expected to be a great help although visibility is now slightly reduced in the area. "We are counting on six helicopters that have been operating here for several days, air support from five planes, and the German side has promised five helicopters for today as well," regional fire department spokesman Milan Rudolf stated.

The situation has now stabilized. Firefighters reduced the total fire intervention area by one-fifth to 2,860 hectares, and the burned area is now 1,060 hectares. Over the weekend, 780 firefighters battled a fire in the national park, and another 150 firefighters with equipment are arriving today. 

UPDATE (July 31/2:30 p.m.) Three tourists have been kicked out of the Czech Switzerland National Park after accessing the area of the Pravčická brána stone archway, Pavel Benda, director of the park administration, told reporters today. Entry to the area surrounding Pravčická brána is currently prohibited as a forest fire continues to burn for the eighth day. Incredibly, the tourists had lit a campfire of their own in the area.

"Despite our repeated appeals, yesterday (Saturday) in the early evening, two irresponsible men and one woman went to Pravčická brana, through places that have not yet been extinguished. Police expelled them from the national park and ultimately resolved the matter with a warning," wrote Czech Police on social media. Repeated offenses could result in a fine of up to 100,000 crowns.

"It's absolutely unbelievable what a group of people like this can do, and it makes me sad," added Benda. "I really don't have any explanation for that, human stupidity is truly endless."

UPDATE (July 31/12:00 p.m.) Public and political opinion about climate change is shifting as one of the Czech Republic's most beloved natural locations goes up in flames, Robert Tait writes in The Guardian this weekend.

"As wake-up calls go, this one had the distinction of early morning pungency. If the Czech Republic is to complete the journey from deep climate change skepticism to full recognition of the global heating crisis, history may record that the common experience of awakening to a pervading burning smell marked a turning point," writes Tait.

"Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister – whose Civic Democrat (ODS) party has long been considered climate-sceptic – told the Prima TV channel after visiting the scene that he would 'have to wear blinkers and not think rationally … if I did not see that the climate is changing in a certain way and that the whole of Europe is facing fires caused by unusually high temperatures.'"

UPDATE (July 31/9:00 a.m.) Eight firefighters have been injured during efforts to extinguish the forest fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park, and some of them were hospitalized on Saturday, Prokop Voleník, a spokesman for regional rescue services, told journalists yesterday.

One firefighter was seriously wounded after falling from a rock on Saturday, and was airlifted to a hospital trauma center in nearby Ústí. His injuries are not considered life-threatening, according to Voleník.

Two other firefighters were injured in an accident involving a quad bike during efforts to put out the fire. They were treated on the scene by paramedics, Martina Gotzová, a spokesperson for the Hradec Králové firefighting authority, told journalists.

UPDATE (July 30/3:00 p.m.) As of Saturday afternoon, firefighting planes are still unable to take off due to inclement weather in the area of the Czech Switzerland National Park.

Weather conditions continue to hamper efforts from firefighters to get the blaze under control.

Additional resources have been deployed to the area, and now include a total of 755 firefighters including 420 voluntary firefighters. There are also now a total of seven helicopters on the site.

UPDATE (July 30/12:00 p.m.) Heavy rainfall that hit many areas of the Czech Republic on Saturday morning largely missed areas of the Czech Switzerland National Park that remain engulfed in flames. Weather conditions have instead hampered efforts from firefighters to get the blaze under control.

Firefighting airplanes could not take off this morning to help extinguish the fire in the national park due to adverse weather conditions, Lukáš Marvan, a spokesperson for regional firefighters, told reporters at around 11:00 a.m. At that time, it was unclear when the planes would be able to resume their flights.

The Swedish Air Tractor planes, each of which can hold up to 3,000 liters of water, remain at the airport in Vodochody. Rainfall in the area of Czech Switzerland on Saturday morning, which only amounted to a few millimeters, had no noticeable impact on the blaze.

UPDATE (July 30/9:00 a.m.) Entry to the Czech Switzerland National Park is now banned from ten surrounding villages as firefighters continue to work on extinguishing a forest fire that has raged in the area for the past week. Select hiking and cycling trails in unaffected areas remain open.

The ban on entering the national park applies to areas in Hřensko, Mezná, Janov, Růžová, Kamenická Stráň, Srbská Kamenice, Jetřichovice, Rynartice, Všemily, and Vysoká Lípa. Park employees, health workers, police, and firefighters are not affected by the ban.

The ban on entry to Czech Switzerland National Park will remain in effect until after the forest fire has been extinguished, according to park spokesperson Tomáš Salov.

UPDATE (July 29/9.30 a.m.) Two extinguisher planes from Sweden will arrive in North Bohemia today to help tackle the vast fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park, They will replace the Canadair planes from Italy that assisted in the area on Thursday. Those planes had to return to Italy today to fight fires on the Italian Peninsula.

Firefighters hope that the Swedish planes' water tanks will have a volume similar to that of the Canadairs, which is 6,000 liters. Czechia has also negotiated with Spain for the loan of extinguisher planes. The negotiations are still underway, he said.

The Czech Switzerland National Park has been burning since Sunday. The fire has affected an area of ​​five by two kilometers. About 500 people have already had to leave the threatened villages.

UPDATE (July 28/4:30 p.m.) Today for the first time, two firefighting aircraft from Italy participated fully in the fight to stop the forest fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park. The Czech army has now deployed a third, more powerful helicopter to combat the fire. Slovakia will send 30 members of its armed forces with a UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter adapted to fight fires, the Slovak Defense Ministry announced today.

Although the fire has affected approximately 1,200 hectares of the park since Sunday, the Ministry of the Environment says it will not ban entry to the park across the board, Minister Anna Hubáčková said after today's meeting with the mayors of the affected municipalities. She said that one of the causes of the fire, but not the main one, could be the wood left in the area in the wake of a bark-beetle calamity.

Due to the concerns of a water shortage, the outflow from the dams of the Vltava Cascade was increased, ČTK reports.

UPDATE (July 28/12:30 p.m.) The police are investigating what started the fire in Czech Switzerland. They have some clues, but they are seeking eyewitness testimony from people who saw the fire when it first started to spread. An on-site investigation can only take place after the fire has been extinguished. The investigation, in which police dogs will also be deployed, can only begin after the fight to put out the fire is over. The police are investigating the case on suspicion of criminal endangerment due to negligence, but do not have a specific suspect.

Police around the fire are monitoring road closures and patrolling areas where residents have been evacuated. The police have not yet recorded any cases of theft or looting. However, the police recorded one case where a person with a drone tried to film during aerial firefighting. The police know his identity.

"We are checking whether he could have committed the crime of public endangerment due to negligence by using a drone at a time when helicopters were flying here," Ústí nad Labem regional police spokesman Daniel Vítek said.

Today, about 450 firefighters are deployed, and seven helicopters and four planes are also helping.

The Czech Fire Rescue Service also posted a video on Twitter to show that the Pravčická brána and adjacent buildings are still intact.

(UPDATE/ July 28) The forest fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park did not spread during the night. Firefighters manage to contain the fire on an area of five by two kilometers. No firefighters were seriously injured during the entire intervention. Firefighters have been working in Czech Switzerland since Sunday morning, and since Tuesday evening they have managed to contain the fire. A safety belt has been created using mining machines.

"We remain in the same positions, we didn't have to retreat anywhere," said Ústí nad Labem regional fire department spokesman Milan Rudolf said. With the help of mining machines, it was possible to create a safety belt on the Czech road.  

UPDATE (July 27/11:00 p.m.) Firefighters have been containing the fire within the Czech Switzerland National Park within an area of 1,000 hectares, the regional fire department's spokesman Milan Rudolf told reporters today. Previously evacuated villages and towns are protected against the fire, he said.

Inside the area most affected by the blaze, firefighters have extinguished blazes at Vysoká Lípa and at Malá Pravčická brána but the fire is still not under control, Rudolf added. A small fire has begun to pick up near a small castle close to Vysoká Lipa. Almost 500 firefighters are currently deployed along with two aircraft and seven helicopters.

UPDATE (July 27/6:00 p.m.) As forests in Czech Switzerland National Park burn for the fourth day, officials say that the blaze has affected an area of ​​five by two kilometers, making it the largest forest fire that the Czech Republic has ever experienced to date.

Today the Civil Aviation Authority announced a flight ban over Czech Switzerland. The no-fly zone will be in a circle with a radius of ten nautical miles, i.e. roughly 18.5 kilometers. The administration of the Czech Switzerland National Park has asked the Ministry of the Environment to announce a ban on entry to the park. The ban on entering České Švýcarsko National Park could come into effect Thursday at the latest.

Minister Vit Rakusan told reporters today that the firefighting planes from Italy that landed at an airport near Prague this afternoon to help extinguish the extensive fire could lead to a positive breakthrough there; iDnes.cz reports that the landmark Pravčická gate and the Falcon's Nest survived the fire.

The administration of the Czech Switzerland National Park has asked the Ministry of the Environment to announce a ban on entry to the park. PM Fiala said today it will only be possible to determine assistance after the fire has been extinguished and the damage assessed. Experts say the fire will likely have a positive effect on wildlife in the long term as spruce stands replace mixed forests.

UPDATE (July 27/12:10 p.m.) The firefighting planes from Italy that will land at an airport near Prague today to help extinguish the extensive fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park might cause a fundamental positive breakthrough there, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan told reporters today.

The Italian planes will be tasked to operate where firefighters face the biggest problems, such as in unaccessible areas that are not on fire anymore but a new epicenter might emerge there, Rakušan said.

UPDATE (July 27/11:45 a.m.) Eight helicopters are helping to put out a fire in Czech Switzerland on Wednesday. In addition to six Czech aircraft, helicopters from Poland and Slovakia are working to stop the fire. Large-capacity aircraft from Italy will arrive at Vodochody airport on Wednesday.

The work is complicated by the wind, which picked up in the morning and increased the flames.

UPDATE (July 27/10:40 a.m.) For the fourth day, firefighters are responding to a fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park. The fire did not spread overnight, more than 400 firefighters are still working on an area of ​​1,000 hectares. 

The evacuated villages of Mezná, Mezní Louka, and Vysoká Lípa u Jetřichovic have been protected from the spread of the fire. The still-unevacuated village of Janov is no longer in danger. An estimated 450 people were forced to evacuate their homes. The border crossing in Hřensko is closed. More firefighters will arrive on Wednesday, regional fire department spokesman Milan Rudolf said.

The Ustí nad Labem region will declare a ban on entering its forests this morning due to the extensive fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park, which will be completely closed.

UPDATE (July 26/10:30 p.m.) Helicopter intervention came to a close in Czech Switzerland National Park this evening and will return to the site on Wednesday morning. The fire has not yet been brought under control.

The felling of trees has begun with the aim of stopping the spread of the fire. One of the mining machines provided by Czech forest services has already started creating fire protection strips, four more harvesters are on the way.

The fire spread over an area of ​​roughly 1,000 hectares within three days. The administration of the Czech Switzerland National Park will decide on Wednesday whether to ban the entry of tourists into the entire park. The Ústí Region will announce a ban on entering forests in the region on Wednesday over concerns of another fire.

For now, park management has closed entry for hikers to the area near Hřensko, Mezná and Mezní Louka. There are over 400 firefighters on the scene, and units from all over the country are gradually arriving. A Polish fire unit arrived today while Slovak and Italian support is expected Wednesday.

Firefighters' efforts are being complicated by the inaccessibility of the terrain, drought, and unpredictable wind which changes from hour to hour according to reports.

UPDATE (July 26/4 p.m.) People who lost their accommodation or were otherwise affected by the fire in Czech Switzerland can apply for emergency assistance in the amount of CZK 69,300 per person at labor offices, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka said. People can also request a contribution to cover one-off expenses, such as legal fees paid in the event of the loss of documents or the issuance of a duplicate birth certificate.

The police began investigating the fire in Czech Switzerland as a criminal act of public endangerment due to negligence. It is not clear where and under what circumstances the fire broke out. Police have restricted access to the area and are guarding buildings that people had to evacuate. The crime of public endangerment is committed when a person "puts people at risk of death or serious injury to health or creates a risk of damage to another's property.

Scientists, however, say the connection between the climate crisis and the increase in the destructiveness of fires is considered by most scientists to be proven and indisputable. This also applies to the current fire in Czech Switzerland.

UPDATE (July 26/12:50 p.m.) For the third day, firefighters are responding to an extensive fire in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. Some 410 firefighters from 83 units were fighting the fire before noon today. Czechia also requested foreign aid.

The fire spread to Hřensko, popular with tourists, and about six houses in the village of Mezná were also affected. Firefighters are still unable to estimate whether the fire will continue to spread. Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan, and Fire Department director-general Vladimír Vlček arrived at the site before noon.

Since this morning, helicopters have been taking water for firefighting from the Elbe. The Czech Republic asked Slovakia to lend it firefighting helicopters that recently helped put out fires in Slovenia, and is asking other countries for large-capacity firefighting aircraft. A helicopter has been offered by Poland.

Police on Twitter have asked people not to evade roadblocks to enter the area of the fire, showing a picture of a group of cyclists they called irresponsible. They also said they were guarding the property of the people who had been evacuated from Mezná, Mezní Louka, and the partial evacuation of Hřensko.  

UPDATE (July 26/9:30 a.m.): Strong winds and an extensive fire that spread from the Czech Switzerland National Park to nearby Hřensko, where about 50 people were evacuated from the right bank of Kamenice on Tuesday morning, has led to the smell of smoke wafting across the entire Czech Republic.

Currently, the fire is on roughly 30 hectares. If the weather doesn't get worse, especially if the wind doesn't get stronger, firefighters could bring the flames under control on Tuesday, Martin Laníček, commander of the intervention and deputy for the Integrated Fire Rescue System of the Ústí nad Labem region, said.

About 30 firefighting units or some 150 firefighters are working in Bohemian Switzerland including one unit of German firefighters. Děčín prepared accommodation for evacuees in an elementary school. A meeting of the crisis staff has been called.

Czech firefighters evacuated about 50 people in Hřensko during the night and a German summer camp for children in Ferdinandov. Nearly 50 members of the camp were transported across the German border by bus where German firefighters took them over.

In Hřensko, people from the right bank of the Kamenice river in the direction of the state border, mostly owners of the houses, had to be evacuated. Other local inhabitants left in their own cars.

UPDATE (July 25/5:30 p.m.): A total of 49 fire units, more than 50 firefighters, are currently assisting on the site of the fire in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park now spreading towards the Pravčická brána rock formation, one of the park's main tourist attractions. Some 80 people have been evacuated from the rock formation as well as 60 people from a scout camp in Dolský mlýn regional firefighters tweeted shortly after 4 p.m. Monday afternoon.

The fire, which broke out on Sunday, started spreading Monday afternoon as the wind picked up. The blaze has crossed the border into Germany and three units of firefighters from Germany are now on the scene, regional fire corps spokesman Lukáš Marvan has told ČTK. Environment Minister Anna Hubackova is now at a meeting of the emergency staff at the fire station in Hřensko.

The development of the fire worsened in the afternoon. "The fire epicenter that [had at one point] been under control has started spreading. The vegetation at the entry of the Kamenice gorge is also on fire," National Park spokesman Tomáš Salov said.


Czech firefighters have declared the highest degree of fire alert following a forest fire near Hřensko in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park that has been burning since early this morning.

Firefighters continue to work on extinguishing the fire, which is in an area difficult to reach and covers an area of about 450 by 150 meters (around 2.5 hectares), according to regional fire corps spokesperson Lukáš Fajak.

Sixteen firefighter units, a police helicopter, and a special plane operated by the firefighters' air rescue service are assisting on the spot to help extinguish the fire. No injuries have been reported. 

The forest has been burning in an area that is difficult to reach by vehicles since early this morning. The road from Hřensko to Mezní Louka is currently being utilized by firefighters and is inaccessible to the public. The parking area at Nad Klepáčem is also closed.

The Bohemian Switzerland National Park Administration has called on any visitors to park further away from the scene of the fire so that firefighters have enough room to properly extinguish the blaze.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but park administrators suspect that human actions were involved.

"Human interaction is highly probable, since there has been no recent natural phenomena such as a lightning strike that could cause a fire," Bohemian Switzerland National Park spokesperson Tomáš Salov told reporters.

The park was initially notified of the fire by German colleagues, and smoke from the fire is noticeable in nearby villages.

Bohemian Switzerland is a popular summer tourist destination in the Czech Republic. The area is celebrated for its unique rock formations; the Pravčická brána rocks were featured in the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

A fire previously broke out in Bohemian Switzerland in April, with an area of approximately one hectare affected. Firefighters, along with a helicopter unit, spent about one day extinguishing the blaze.

With high temperatures and dry weather conditions across the Czech Republic, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has issued a fire warning across the country through at least Wednesday.

In Prague, a ban on open fires in outdoor areas with vegetation is currently in effect. The ban applies to having campfires, barbecues, or even lit cigarettes in the city's parks and forests.

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