Due to extreme drought, almost 500 forest fires broke out in Brandenburg this year. Among them were five major damage situations, Interior Minister Michael Stübgen (CDU) reported on Wednesday in the state parliament’s interior committee. “I hope that was an exceptional year,” said the minister. “If that becomes the norm, we’ll have to adapt to it much more intensively in the fire department,” said Stübgen.
In addition to the extreme drought, extraordinary wind events caused major fires, the minister explained. In Frohnsdorf and Beelitz (Potsdam-Mittelmark), for example, a hot air storm fanned the flames for hours, which is otherwise only known from Africa. And near Falkenberg (Elbe-Elster), a thunderstorm cell triggered a tornado that expanded the forest fire, which had previously been brought under control, to twenty times the area.
Fortunately, 35 new tank extinguishing vehicles and five newly purchased high-performance pumps could be used this year, as Stübgen reported. “We are well positioned, but not yet sufficiently,” admitted the minister. “We still have more to do.”
Due to the ammunition load on large areas of fire, the use of fire-fighting helicopters by the Bundeswehr and the Federal Police was absolutely necessary. According to Stübgen, 292,000 hectares of forest areas in Brandenburg are contaminated with ammunition. “And despite the continuous clearance by the explosive ordnance disposal service, the number is increasing because not all areas contaminated with munitions have been discovered by a long shot,” warned the minister.
The fact that most fires could be extinguished quickly is due to the comprehensive surveillance of the forests with cameras around the clock, said Stübgen. “Forest fires are recognized very quickly by us and the first fire-fighting attack is carried out accordingly.”
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Around 200 hectares of state forest were destroyed in the major fire in Beelitz in June. The city announced on Wednesday that further extinguishing water extraction points on the forest paths are to be opened up to fight future forest fires. After a major fire in Fichtenwalde in 2018, ten deep wells were newly created. All dead trees in the forest should be collected to reduce the fire load.