Czech Republic: Record Temperatures Set Forests in Flames

April 30, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
A man sleeps in the grass in April, 2012 in Prague.
A man sleeps on the grass, with a magazine covering his face, during a warm sunny day in April, 2012, in Prague. (Michal Cizek/AFP/GettyImages)

PRAGUE—A warm month of April culminated this weekend in the Czech Republic, while in Prague, capital meteorologists measured temperatures up to 86 F, beating the 212-year-old record from 1800.

Dry weather and unusually high temperatures have caused dozens of fires to spread across the southern and eastern parts of the country this weekend. Sunday was an especially busy day for the firemen, with a new fire announced on average every 6 minutes.

Hundreds of large forest areas were hit by flames, which sometimes took the whole night to extinguish. Sometimes fires were put out by the firefighters at night, only to flare up again the next day.

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute issued an official warning on Monday, cautioning against the danger of fires. It urges people to follow safety measures such as building fires only in designated fireplaces, properly extinguishing them before leaving the area, and refraining from lighting a cigarette in the forest.

Record temperatures were also measured in other countries of Central Europe, such as Germany, Austria, and Hungary.

Firefighters also call for vigilance during Walpurgis Night, meaning “Burning of the Witches,” in the Czech Republic, a traditional spring festival celebrated between April 30 and May 1. During this night, people burn witches made from rags and straw on bonfires across the country to put an end to winter and welcome the coming spring.

According to a Czech firefighter spokesperson, Ivana Svitakova, the damage caused by the celebrations last year cost around $328,000. This year, firefighters are on standby duty for the whole night.

They have also issued their own “Ten Commandments” for safely surviving the night, such as bringing one’s own fire-extinguishing equipment to the site, and not jumping over the bonfire.