29.07.2022, Sachsen, Bad Schandau: Michael Kretschmer (CDU, M), Ministerpräsident von Sachsen, steht vor einen Aufklärungsflug, bei dem er sich über die Waldbrände im Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz informieren will, neben Michael Geisler (CDU, l), Landrat des Landkreises Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge, vor einem Helikopter. Foto: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer assumes that fighting the forest fire in Saxon Switzerland will take a long time. “It will take days and weeks before we can talk about relaxation,” said the CDU politician during a visit to Bad Schandau on Friday evening. The head of government spoke of a “great and difficult task”.

He had previously flown a helicopter over the forest fire area to get an overview. For this, Kretschmer, like Interior Minister Armin Schuster (CDU), who was also there on Friday evening when visiting Bad Schandau, canceled his vacation.

The fire brigade and civil protection workers have been in suspense from a devastating fire in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains for days. A second rages on the Saxon-Brandenburg state border.

The operation will cost a lot of money, Kretschmer spoke of “many millions of euros.” He assured the affected regions in the national park and in northern Saxony financial help – also for reconstruction.

At a time when it is getting drier and drier, one must also talk about the future of the national parks, according to Kretschmer. Among other things, aisles, water management in the forests and the removal of dead wood must be discussed.

In addition, Saxony’s head of government thanked the fire brigade, federal police and armed forces for their days of work. If they stopped working, everything would burn down, emphasized Kretschmer. “It’s a question of strength, who has the stamina, who gives up first.” The federal government has also promised continued support with firefighting helicopters. “The only resource that is really useful here.”

At the same time, Kretschmer called on people not to cancel vacations in Saxon Switzerland. Every trip helps the region.

Fire brigades and civil protection officers have been trying for days to get the fires in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and on the Saxony-Brandenburg border under control.

In Saxony, the situation was “very, very tense”, as a spokeswoman for the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains district office said. In the affected area in the Saxon Switzerland National Park, small fires could be extinguished, but new sources of fire were discovered at the same time.

However, the fire on the German side is less extensive than previously assumed. “By evaluating the satellite data, the areas of the fire could be narrowed down. After that, a total of 150 hectares was found to be affected,” said the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains district office on Friday. So far, the authorities had assumed that the fire had spread over an area of ​​250 hectares.

According to the district office, some new fire spots were discovered on Thursday evening. “The situation at the previously known sources of fire remains tense. During the day, the fire situation in the area is constantly monitored,” it said.

More than 400 emergency services are currently fighting the forest fire. In addition to ten helicopters, two water cannons and a boat are also in use.

In the Saxon Switzerland National Park, the efforts of the fire brigade are currently concentrating on preventing the flames from spreading to other areas.

On Thursday evening, fire nests were also discovered and extinguished on the other side of the Kirnitzsch river, said the spokesman for the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains district, Thomas Kunz, in the morning. The firefighters had actually hoped that the Kirnitzsch would act as a natural barrier for the fire.

In the city of Sebnitz, a disaster alarm was therefore triggered on Friday night. In Bad Schandau in Saxon Switzerland, this has been in effect since Tuesday. With the triggering of the disaster alarm, the emergency services can be better coordinated and access to other emergency services for extinguishing work can be ensured, it said.

The district also warned people with chronic respiratory diseases of “increased exposure of the respiratory tract to smoke exposure caused by weather and fire”. Physical exertion outdoors should be avoided as far as possible, it said.

The fire broke out in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the Czech Republic over the weekend and spread to the Saxon Switzerland National Park on Monday. According to the authorities, the situation relaxed first in the middle of the week. However, due to the shifting wind, the fire then spread again.

Sweden provided two fire-fighting aircraft to fight the fire in the Czech National Park Bohemian Switzerland. According to the Czech fire brigade, the Air Tractor AT802F machines can each absorb 3,000 liters of water. Since the fire broke out on the Czech side on Sunday, around 1,000 hectares of forest have already gone up in flames. More than 450 firefighters are on duty there every day. The fire is not yet under control.