Arsonist Confesses to Starting Largest Fire in Czech History at České Švýcarsko National Park

Michal Turek, Seznam Zprávy

According to the police, a 36-year-old former park ranger is believed to have started the largest fire in Czech history. The suspect was apprehended in connection with several smaller fires during this year’s Easter period. He could face up to 15 years in prison.

The article confirms that the suspect is Jiří L., a former voluntary park ranger at České Švýcarsko National Park. The information was initially reported by and confirmed by Dan Anděl, the Deputy Regional Prosecutor in Ústí nad Labem, to Seznam Zprávy.

In addition to the significant fire, the police suspect the individual of starting other fires. The park’s website indicates that in 2013, he guided tourists to the Pravčická brána rock formation.

According to Seznam Zprávy, the suspect briefly worked as a substitute employee at the park in 2013 and later volunteered there until 2018, when his health prevented further participation.

Investigators contacted the suspect this year concerning several smaller fires during the Easter period. Jan Kolář, the mayor of Krásná Lípa, where the suspect resides, stated that the police apprehended him for three initial arson attacks on the Vlčí hora lookout tower and two cabins in the vicinity.

Regarding the confession, CNN Prima News reported in late April that the suspect turned himself into the police. However, Kamil Marek, a regional police spokesperson, clarified that the regional investigators and police from Rumburk played a significant role in solving the case. He stated that someone did not simply come forward and confess.

An anonymous source familiar with the investigation revealed that the suspect was in a treatment facility before the court decided to detain him. During the police’s search for the culprit of the smaller fires, they regularly visited the facility. Eventually, after gaining his trust, the suspect admitted to starting the central fire.

The fire near Hřensko broke out on the night of July 24 last year and quickly spread, affecting over 1,000 hectares of vegetation. The firefighting efforts were challenging, involving over 6,000 firefighters and even aerial support from abroad. The damage amounted to 270 million Czech korun.

The suspect is facing charges of public endangerment and damaging property owned by others. If found guilty by the court, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.