Czech Republic wildfire smoke drifts across country, hundreds of firefighters deployed

People across the western half of the Czech Republic have been advised by the fire brigade to keep their windows closed as they fight a big forest fire.

Parts of the Bohemian Switzerland national park, which sits on the German border, have been burning since Sunday.

Amid record temperatures and dry conditions, strong winds have sent the smoke drifting across the country.

Homes have been destroyed and the smell of smoke has reached the capital Prague 100km to the south.

Smoke has also been detected in the Pardubice area, 180km to the south-east.

Hundreds of Czech firefighters were deployed as the fire destroyed areas of forest and homes in the village of Mezna. The fire was also threatening the nearby village of Hrensko, close to the German border, and dozens of people were forced to flee their homes.

Three German teams who had been helping later left for the German side of the border as the blaze later started to spread. Tourists were urged to avoid the area as the alarm was raised around Bad Schandau in the Saxon Switzerland national park.

The fire service was inundated with calls about the drift of smoke and appealed to Czechs not to contact them unless they saw flames. Human carelessness has been blamed for the fire.

Czech helicopters could be seen filling buckets from the River Elbe before heading towards the fire. Firefighters from Slovakia, Poland and Italy, as well as Germany have responded to Czech calls for aid under the EU’s civil protection mechanism.

While there have been no reports of injuries from the Czech fire, hundreds of people have fled their homes since Sunday. Prime Minister Petr Fiala visited the scene of the fire on Tuesday.

The Bohemian Switzerland national park is a popular tourist attraction, and its naturally formed sandstone arch, the largest in Europe has featured in a number of films, including The Chronicles of Narnia.