Horrific news broke overnight as word that a fire had spread through a home for the mentally ill and disabled in the town of Vejprty, near the Czech border with Germany.

The fire, which was reported by international news outlets like BBC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, killed eight people and some thirty others were transported to area hospitals. Conflicting reports have stated that as many as two other people are currently listed in critical condition.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time but, according to Emergency Services spokesman Prokop Volenik, it began just before 5am in one room of the facility and quickly spread.

Firefighters responded to the call within ten minutes and the blaze took nearly two hours to extinguish with the aide of German fire teams who were sent to aide their Czech colleagues when bad weather prevented the Czech’s from using helicopters to battle the blaze and transport the injured. 

Image by AFP

Officials have stated that there were thirty-eight people at the facility when the fire broke out including staff, and that all of those killed were patients at the facility. Survivors have been moved to temporary housing within the village and emergency funding is being arranged by local authorities.

Preliminary reports state that the eight who were killed died of smoke inhalation according to Vejprty Mayor Jitka Gadunova. According to Gadunova, the “fire protections in the building were above legal standards and smoke detectors were installed even though they are not required by law.” Apparently, there were no smoke detectors in the area where the fire broke out.

Gadunova also noted that there had been past (unsuccessful) attempts by patients in the facility to start fires and that the facility was “understaffed.”

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Jana Malacova pledged government support and reconstruction of the building. She stated that she will work to also work to amend the Czech laws on personal standards for disability care. 

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has already visited the site, stating, “It’s a huge tragedy. I’m here to find out how the government can help and what to do to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”

Shaun O'Banion

Shaun O'Banion

Shaun O'Banion is a Gotham Award-winning independent film producer, writer, and teacher who has been living and working in Prague since 2015.
Shaun O'Banion

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