Forest fires in Germany and Czechia threaten tourist region

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

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

Hundreds of firefighters on both sides of the border battled the blazes with help from reinforcements from neighboring Poland and Slovakia. Eight firefighting helicopters were working to put out the blazes in the hilly and rocky area that was difficult to access and where around 250 hectares (618 acres) of forest were burning on Thursday.

Local authorities have warned tourists to stay away from the area.

Saxony state authorities have banned hikers from entering several forests in the region. To prevent further fires, they also asked local residents not to set off fireworks at private parties,

“Everything is very tense. We can in no way speak of an appeasement “of the fire” yet “the firefighters have reached the limits of their capacities”, declared the Minister of the Interior of Saxony, Armin Schuster.

Another large forest fire in the district of Elbe-Elster in the eastern German state of Brandenburg was under control on Thursday after picking up again on Wednesday evening, local authorities said. The fire was still burning an area of ​​500 hectares (1,236 acres).

A police helicopter scouted the area with a thermal imaging camera to search for pockets of embers that could ignite. Some areas are contaminated with WWII munitions and are too dangerous for firefighters to enter as heat or human contact could cause explosions.

The German army sent several military helicopters to the two fires to support local units.

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