HALLSTATT (Upper Austria): The burning forest fire on the Echernwand in Hallstatt since Tuesday could not be evacuated 24 hours later. With helicopters since Wednesday morning 22 August 2018, fire fighting water has flown back into the wall.
The fire can come from the dry grass along the busy via ferrata directly above the town of Hallstatt. A smoldering fire with heavy smoke quickly developed beneath the surface and the fire quickly spread. The cable car to the Salzberg and the mine were closed as a precautionary measure. Entering the via ferrata was forbidden.
Initial extinguishing attempts also had to be stopped with the support of the mountain rescue. Several stones, rhizomes and burning tree trunks broke loose and dived into the depths. Because the risk of injury was too great, the attendants had to withdraw from the wall.
Helicopters from the Ministry of the Interior, the federal army and a private company were required. The crew took water from Lake Hallstatt and threw it over the fire. In addition, a few hundred meters long extinguishing water line was laid on the salt mountain up to the exit of the via ferrata and a water and material depot was created. Tuesday evening the fire department was still optimistic to get the fire under control.
Overnight flights were canceled. In addition, a house was evacuated at the foot of the wall. How correct this measure was, turned out in the morning: a boulder in the size of a table had fallen into his garden and rolled to the building. The location was re-examined in daylight. It showed that the fire had spread and was further fueled by the rising sun with the resulting thermals. In consultation with the geologist and torrent and avalanche control, the evacuation of other houses was ordered.
In total, nine fire brigades were moved with more than 70 helpers, as well as 20 mountain rescue workers and police officers. From the top of the ridge eight nozzles were used to prevent the fire from spreading to the top of the forest from below. Four helicopters from the federal army and the Ministry of the Interior flew again with firefighting operations. The employees of Saline Austria splashed water along the cable car to protect this and the spot beneath it.
The mission is very demanding for all forces due to the steep terrain. "Manual labor is not possible," said Gmunden district chief of fire, Stefan Schiendorfer, for the time being only to try to prevent further spreading of the fire, only a heavy rain shower could extinguish the fire under the surface of the forest floor completely.
Info from the police:
On the mountain, especially in the area of "High Victory" and along the tracks of the cable car, forces from the fire brigades are active and successfully wet the edges of the fire area to prevent further spreading. The mountain rescue Hallstatt and Obertraun is responsible for the protection of firefighters in the fall-sensitive terrain. According to initial investigations by the Upper Austria fire prevention agency, the assumption is clear that the fire may have been caused by a sloppy discarded cigarette. Due to the intensive battle against the fire, the area could not increase further. In general, the fire is at risk of fire, but according to the experts can not be spoken. The extinguishing work must be continued with the same personnel costs. On 23 August 2018 the Landesfeuerwehrkommando requested four helicopters from the Bundesheer. The well-coordinated, personnel- and technically complex operation was until now without injuries and without technical problems for the emergency services.