The case of the biggest fire in the history of the Czech Republic will end before the Ústí Regional Court.
Jiří L., a former professional park ranger, was charged with starting the fire that destroyed the Czech Switzerland National Park. The fire affected over 1,100 hectares of this strictly protected landscape and it took hundreds of firefighters 21 days to extinguish it.
The fact that the indictment was filed was confirmed to Seznam Zprávám by Kateřina Doušová, deputy regional prosecutor in Ústí. According to her, the man, who is now in custody, was indicted for general endangerment and damage to another’s property, for which he faces a sentence of eight to fifteen years in prison.
“The indictment was filed for the crime of public endangerment and the misdemeanor of damaging another’s property. The damage is currently around 350 million for the purposes of criminal proceedings,” Doušová said. For example, the owners of three houses on the territory of the park, which completely burned down, estimated the damage at 30 million.
According to investigators, the man started the fire after careful deliberation. During interrogation, Jiří L. told the police that he had been thinking about starting “the most spectacular fire in the history of the Czech Republic” since the spring of 2022 and was just waiting for a severe drought.
What happened during the fire
Jiří L. brought alcohol and pliers to a place called Malinový důl, which he considered the most suitable for starting a fire. After he ignited it, the fire began to spread rapidly, reaching an area of at least 1,100 hectares. Eight houses were destroyed or damaged. Approximately 6,300 firefighters extinguished the fire. Firefighters from abroad also helped with their equipment: from Italy, Poland, Germany and Sweden. 532 people were evacuated. The intervention lasted 21 days.
In recent weeks, the police have been waiting for an expert opinion on Jiří L’s state of health to be prepared. “Given that the expert found him sane, that is why an indictment was filed in the case and the case will be heard in court,” Doušová pointed out.
According to the resolution on the initiation of criminal prosecution, which Seznam Zprávy was able to read, the accused Jiří L. talked about demons in front of the police during interrogations and stated that voices in his head led him to start the fires.
The accused did not immediately confess to starting the fire. The police initially investigated him because of the suspicion that he started the fire at the lookout tower on top of Vlčí hora in Děčín in April this year.
When she invited the suspect to give an explanation about this, he confessed and then gave a detailed account of how the fire started in the national park.
Who is charged with the fire in Czech Switzerland
Jiří L. worked as a volunteer park ranger from 2009 to 2018. He was even a professional park ranger between 2012 and 2013. Because of this, he knew the whole park very well. He walked 50 kilometers during the service. He was released after being investigated by the police on suspicion of another serious crime. After that, according to his relatives, he believed in God. But in recent years he changed, started threatening the family and then set fire to the national park and several other buildings. He eventually ended up in a psychiatric hospital due to his health condition.
He was accused in May. He stated that at the epicenter of the fire in Malinový dol, about half an hour’s walk from Hřensk, he chose the place where there was the most dry wood. He brought in another pair of pliers and doused everything with a liter of alcohol and set it on fire. The accused also told the police that in order to spread the fire, he walked around the forest and poured another three liters of alcohol.
“When I came home, I was in agony, sometimes good, sometimes bad, I had voices in my head all the time. I thought this was the greatest act of my life,” the man described to police, according to the indictment.
During the investigation, it gradually became clear that he was probably responsible for more than one fire.