Foto: Belga

Heath fire in Brecht natural area caused by bullets that shouldn't have been used

New information reveals that soldiers at an army shooting range in Brecht (Antwerp province) were practising with so-called tracers, bullets with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base, while this actually hadn't been allowed. The shooting caused a blaze at the shooting range. The fire quickly spread to an adjacent natural area where an inferno took place, last April. 

The heath fire was so big that it could even be seen from space. Eventually, some 570 hectares were destroyed. Helicopters that should normally be deployed to extinguish the fire, were not in service when the fire broke out. 

After a dry month of April, the fire alert level was yellow at the outdoor shooting range 'Groot Schietveld'. This means that tracer ammunition containing phosphorus cannot be used. Phosphorus is very flammable when it comes into contact with air. 

However, due to bad communication, militarymen at the shooting range assumed the alert level was green and that the special bullets could be used. Tracer bullets are used because it is easier for shooters to follow their course e.g. when practising. The flammable ammunition eventually caused the large heath fire. 

The Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir declared the army in default; the armed forces may have to pay for all costs connected to the big blaze. 

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