OTTOLAND - In the village of Ottoland in the Alblasserwaard at least thirteen buildings were burned out tonight. Due to the strong winds and drought of recent weeks, the fire could spread over a large part of the village in half an hour. Many of the burnt-out houses had thatched roofs.

The fire started around half past eight in a small shed, near a farm. According to the resident of the farm, a gas bottle and a jerry can with petrol were stored in the shed.

“When that gas bottle exploded, all the burning pieces flew on the roof. Then there was no saving. ”


The strong wind made sparks, from the fire, soon blown to other farms and homes.

“All thatched roofs were burned at once. It happened so quickly, it was impossible to keep up. We were all powerless. ”

(inhabitant F. de Kock, NOS News 01-03-1986)

Mayor Abbring van Graafstroom, which includes Ottoland, happened to be at one meeting a little further in the village. At that meeting, a few members of the voluntary fire brigade called to extinguish. “Burgemeester, blijft u maar zitten, want het is maar een schuurtje”, got the mayor.

But within half an hour, a significant part of the village was ablaze.

This article continues below this advertisement


It extinguishing the fire was not an easy job. By the cold of the past for days all ditches in the area were frozen shut. Firefighters had to with a chain making a hole in the locks, to obtain sufficient extinguishing water.

It fire-fighting water made the roads in the village very smooth. There had to road salt (manual) of a chariot scattered across the streets to prevent further accidents.

Cattle from surrounding farms were brought to the polder. People were sheltered in the Groene Kruis building.

Some animals died in the flames. A sheep that was lambing in a stable has been lifted by a few people and brought to the land.


At the fire went down several farms, some houses and a shop in flames. The havoc is enormous. De 32 people who lived in the houses often have just the clothes they have on and the stuff they put in a pair minutes out of the house.

“I quickly grabbed my wallet and some books from school and then I really had to go outside, otherwise I would choke on the smoke myself. I just had my birthday and then you get money. If it burns, it is no fun. But I was not able to save more, otherwise you suffocated yourself. I have nothing else. ”

(Arjan, NOS News, 01 maart 1986)

Ottoland has nine hundred inhabitants. The buildings are, as is often the case in the polder, in a long line in a row, on the road, so-called ribbon development.

Hoe ging het verder?

The day after the big fire, the Molentocht is planned in the Alblasserwaard. Ottoland faces genuine "disaster tourism". The police cordoned off part of the village.

The Ottolanders do put up a large milk churn, to raise money for the victims. At the end of the day there is 1500 guilders in.

In the weeks after the fire, it turns out that togetherness still exists. In a short time 300.000 guilders collected for the victims. Also curtains, blankets, clothes and furniture donated. In fact, so much is coming in, that part must be refused.

A few weeks later, all the debris has been removed and rebuilding begins. A year later, all buildings are back.

There are no human casualties. Three cows do die.

The exact cause of the fire has never been determined. It was also suggested that the fire was caused by "a stove falling over while cleaning a moped", but that is denied by the person concerned.


RTV Rijnmond – Vergeten Verhalen – De brand die Ottoland voorgoed veranderde

Historical Society Binnenwaard – Fire in Ottoland

RTV Rijnmond – 28 februari 2016 – Cause of the flames of Ottoland remains a mystery

Dick Aanen – Thirty years ago, Ottoland turned into one big conflagration

Author: Dave Datema

published: 27-02-2020

story number: 235