Swiss Army Maneuvers Start Forest Fire
BALZERS, Liechtenstein (AP) _ Anti-tank grenades launched during Swiss army maneuvers started a fire that destroyed 600 acres of forest and threatened this border village, local officials said Friday.
Switzerland issued a formal apology and promised to pay all damages. No estimate of the damage was available immediately.
Mayor Emmanuel Vogt of Balzers said the grenades were fired directly into the forest. He accused the Swiss army of irresponsible conduct.
Hans Brunhart, chief of the principality’s government, said he could not understand why the exercise was conducted in such windy conditions.
The fire started Thursday afternoon during a close combat exercise at Switzerland’s St. Luzisteig training area just across the border south of Balzers. The Swiss army said grenades started a grass fire that was fanned by strong south winds and spread to the forest, which is in Swiss territory but owned by the village.
The forest is considered a vital barrier against rockslides.
Hundreds of Swiss and Liechtenstein firefighters and volunteers fought the blaze all night.
Brunhart said he would seek a meeting with Swiss officials to prevent a recurrence.
Relations between the governments, which are linked by a customs and currency union, traditionally have been close and cordial.
Stray artillery shells have caused protests before, but the only result was amusement when a Swiss army unit lost its way a few years ago and marched across the unguarded border into Lichtenstein, which disbanded its army more than a century ago.