Police arrest man suspected of starting forest fire that devastated Bohemian Switzerland last year

Forest fire in Bohemian Switzerland in 2022

Police have arrested and charged a 36-year-old man whom they suspect started the largest forest fire that Czechia has ever seen, following an intense investigation that took almost nine months. The man also stands accused of starting a series of other more recent fires in the area.

Police say the man may have started the huge fire in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park last summer that ravaged over 1,000 hectares of forest and could be smelled as far away as Prague, 100km to the south and Pardubice, 180km to the south-east. This comes after a several-month-long investigation by local and regional police officers and criminal investigators. The man was arrested on Friday and charged with public endangerment and damage to property. If found guilty, he will face up to 15 years in prison.

Photo: René Volfík,  Czech Radio

However, if the police are correct, then the fire in Bohemian Switzerland was only the beginning. The same man is charged with starting several more fires in the Děčín area within a single week in April this year, damaging the Vlčí hora Observatory, three hunting grounds and two animal feeders, and causing a holiday cottage in the village of Krásná Lípa to burn down. So far, the damage has been estimated at over CZK 270 million.

The fire in Bohemian Switzerland that burned for almost three weeks last July and August was the largest in the country’s history. It took around 6,000 professional and voluntary firefighters 20 days to put out and involved an international rescue effort, with special firefighting planes and helicopters deployed from Sweden, Italy, Poland, and Slovakia. Hundreds of residents from the villages of Hřensko, Mezná, Vysoká Lípa and Mezní Louka had to be evacuated and some parts of the park remained closed for several weeks afterwards.

The forest in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park after the fire | Photo: René Volfík,  iROZHLAS.cz