Vast Forest Fire Is Burning In České Švýcarsko National Park
A vast forest fire has broken out in the České Švýcarsko National Park, with fumes affecting air quality as far away as Prague. Due to climate change and the associated hot and dry seasons, the risk of forest fires is increasing over an ever larger area of the country. Photo credit: mendelu.cz
Czech Republic, July 28 (BD) – The České Švýcarsko National Park has been burning for five days; officials say the fire has affected an area five kilometres by two, making it the largest forest fire ever recorded in the Czech Republic. About 50 tourists and residents, including children from a scout camp in the town of Hrensko, have been evacuated. Residents of the village of Mezna, where several houses are currently on fire, have also been relocated.
Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said that help is on the way from Italy, with firefighting planes landing yesterday afternoon at an airport near Prague to help extinguish the large-scale fire more quickly.
The latest fire shows how susceptible the Czech landscape has become to similar risk situations in recent years, said Petr Čermák, from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology at MENDELU. “Larger fires are not only more difficult to extinguish, but carry a high risk of damage to property and the environment and endanger the health and lives of residents, as we can see happening in the České Švýcarsko National Park,” he said.
The vast majority of forest fires in the Czech Republic until now have been small or medium-sized, affecting an area of a few acres at most. A recent exception was the so-called Moravian Sahara fire ten years ago. MENDELU experts have already warned this spring that forest fires could become a significant problem for the Czech landscape, as they are increasing and will continue to increase with climate change.
Nevertheless, fires are not only caused by dehydration of soils, high temperatures, and natural phenomena affecting forested areas. “Most fires in the Czech environment are culpable to humans. Noncompliance with prohibited activities and the way we generally do not take the risks seriously associated with our activities in the forest are serious problems in our country,” Čermák said.
Prevention is very important, especially in areas like České Švýcarsko, i.e. fire-prone areas that are visited by many people and at the same time highly valuable for nature. It is not possible in the short term to prevent drought and thus high flammability of vegetation. Containing the sources of fire is therefore essential to reduce the risks, which means visitors should behave safely and responsibly in the area, by not setting fires, smoking, or other high risk activities.
Čermák explained that the recovery of a forest after a fire depends on natural conditions and the extent of fire impact. “Thus, forest regeneration can occur almost immediately and may not involve complications. If the fire passage is slower, if it burns the entire stand, or if, for example, there is a threat of erosion or landslide, the management of the impact will be more complicated. There could also be problems with forest regeneration, especially with artificial regeneration or regeneration of some of the target tree species,” he said.
If, on the other hand, the fire goes through the stand quickly, that is, it burns only the ground vegetation and only the lower part of the trunk is burned in mature trees with thick bark (such as pines), some of these trees usually survive the fire and there will be good conditions for recovery.