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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Via AP news wire

Swiss order hang gliders to stay away, closing air space as firefighters battle forest inferno


Swiss authorities have temporarily shut the airspace over a small part of southwestern Switzerland because recreational gliders have endangered the work of emergency teams battling a persistent forest fire in the area.

The Federal Office of Civil Aviation said Friday that the restriction in an airspace of up to 8,000 feet (about 2,400 meters), over a wooded mountainside near the town of Bitsch, will last a week.

The measure affects civil aircraft and drones and is aimed “to protect the ongoing activities of response teams on the ground and in the air,” the office said on its website.

Office spokesman Christian Schubert, in an email to The Associated Press, said the closure affects about 40-50 square kilometers (about 15-20 square miles) in an area that is popular with recreational gliders.

The heads of local helicopter crews and firefighting squads requested the closure because of the dangers presented by the gliders to what was already risky work, Schubert said. No incidents or injuries have been reported, and the measure was “exclusively of a preventative nature.”

Scores of firefighters, police, troops and other emergency teams, backed by helicopters, have deployed to battle the wildfire that was first reported on Monday. The move prompted authorities to temporarily evacuate residents of four villages and hamlets in the area.

Franz Mayr, a community leader in Bitsch, said the fire remained “small” — some 107 hectares (about 265 acres) have been affected — and the situation was stable, though strong winds continued.

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