300 hectares of Veluwe ravaged by fire

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A fire in the Hoge Veluwe National Park on sunday burned up around 5 percent of the total 5,400 hectares. It is still not clear what started the fire, which spread quickly and caused the Kröller-Müller Museum to remove its art collection from the walls and store it in a fireproof depot.

Due to the rather dry Spring and strong winds, the fire spread quickly. Visitation to the park was blocked. Rinus Vanhof (59), the risk-coordinator of the Museum was warned by the fire department of the blaze, which started Sunday morning around 9, and spread quickly in all directions. It threatened to spread even to the Museum which lies in the center of the nature area.

"There were 700 visitors inside at the time. Without a single complaint, everyone left. That was fantastic to see. Everyone understood it immediately" Vanhof told the NRC.

It was a busy day for visitors to the park in general. Easter is one of the busiest times of the year with around 5,000 visitors coming to walk and cycle.

The Museum was forced to take around 300 precious works of art off the walls and store them in a fire-proof depot when the fire came closer and closer to the building. The Kröller-Müller collection includes 90 paintings from Van Gogh and five from Seurat. The total worth of the collection runs into the billions.

Vanhof is not allowed to say where the depot is located, but it took two hours to relocate the paintings there.

The fire took around 300 firemen to fight. Around 40 fire trucks were used, and Defense sent two helicopters to tame the fire. Police have not found any indication that this is a case of arson. This is one of the biggest nature fires of the past decades in Gelderland. In 1976, more than 400 hectares of forest went up in flames.

Everything was back to normal Monday morning, and the doors to the museum were opened again. Of the total area of the park, 300 hectares were burned to a crisp.