“We learned about the fire from the media,” explains 25-year-old Michaela Smolková. Love brought this young kindergarten teacher in Hrobčice to volunteer firefighters. He is now fighting fire together with his partner. During the holidays, she said, fortunately, her worries about being fired from her job disappeared. Along with Jana Čapková, the deputy mayor of the village, there are only two women in the corps, and as they now observe, often also the only firemen on the scene.
“The guys went to the scene of destruction on Monday and mapped the terrain a bit. Jana and I only arrived to see them on Tuesday,” she describes the situation. At first they brought them food and drink, from Wednesday it started to get tough for them as well. The first impression of the fire was said to be terrible. Apocalypse. High flames, smoke, the feeling that hell will never end. Unpacking hoses and extinguishing in very difficult terrain in smoke screens is the most extreme thing she has ever experienced in her life. The fire team from Hrobčice always arrives at the scene early in the morning and returns home late in the evening. When asked how long she will continue to operate in this mode, Michaela Smolková answers: as long as necessary. “New outbreaks of fire keep appearing,” he mentions. According to her, the children she teaches probably don’t know that she is a firefighter. “Maybe after the holidays I’ll tell them about the big bonfire, in a way that’s appropriate for their age,” he says with a smile.
Fifty-year-old volunteer firefighter Martin Tesař works in civilian life as a professional truck driver. Together with his choir, he arrived at the fire from Dolní Podluží, a village with about a thousand inhabitants, which is located not far from Varnsdorf. His father was already a firefighter and now his son is too. He also intervenes in Czech Switzerland.
Good people in a good region
When the forest near Jetřichovice burned last June 18th, Martin Tesař thought he would never experience anything worse. This year it was confirmed to him that one should never say “never again” ahead of time. On the first day, he assisted at the fire from seven in the morning until half past one at night. After a short break, he continued from four o’clock in the morning until evening.
“I don’t like it when someone approaches such disasters as an experience. A fire is not an experience, it’s a hell,” alludes to some tourists who came to see to take pictures with the fire backdrop on social networks and felt aggrieved that the police closed the affected places. To Martin Tesař, in the first hours of the fire, the entire organization appeared to be more of an improvisation than it should have been. On the other hand, he considers the most moving experience to be the spontaneous refreshments, with which firefighters from all sides are included. “Nowadays, when everything is becoming more expensive, completely ordinary people, but also pubs, guest houses that have lost tourists, they all brought so much food and drink that there is too much. They cooked stews, baked cakes, fried steaks. With all the destruction, it gives a person a pleasant feeling that he lives among good people after all,” concludes Tesař.
Forty-seven-year-old Václav Danita, the commander of the volunteer firefighters from Krásná Lípa, was one of the few volunteer firefighters willing to chat for a few minutes even during the intervention during a short break. He evaluated the initial hiccups more conciliatoryly than his colleague from Dolní Podluží. “Unfortunately, how everything was organized on the fly and without experience with such a huge fire, I didn’t think the course was the worst,” he assesses the situation.
There was no time for feelings
As an employee of the municipal office, he was one of the first to learn about the fire, and as the commander of the Krásnolip volunteers, he was on the scene immediately. There was no time for any “feelings” at that moment, because the first impression was terrifying. He has been a volunteer firefighter since he was eighteen years old. Like most of the “boys” he knows, he was drawn to the fire service by both family tradition and an interest in firefighting equipment and a sense of usefulness.
“My wife knew what she was getting into,” she responds to a question about how she endured the first days of his deployment, when the landscape was illuminated far and wide by raging flames and the smoke from the burning area could be felt as far away as Prague. Václav Danita’s son is sixteen years old. To his great regret, he didn’t get into the fire, but he is proud of his dad. “I sincerely feel sorry for hoteliers, guesthouse owners, everyone employed by the tourism industry,” concludes Danita.
I would like to encourage people who want to help to go here. Not only for a spin with your own snacks, but also to get something to eat, to stay. That would help the most right now.