The forest fire that broke out on Friday near Treuenbrietzen in Brandenburg got out of control again on Sunday. The rising wind has fanned the flames further.
The authorities evacuated the villages of Frohnsdorf, Tiefenbrunnen and Klausdorf, according to a spokeswoman for the Potsdam-Mittelmark district, 620 people were affected.
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After initially 60 hectares of forest had burned, a pine forest of around 200 hectares was in flames on Sunday. Bundeswehr fire-fighting helicopters help with firefighting.
The district was hit twice on Sunday: A few kilometers further north, just outside of Potsdam, another major fire broke out near Beelitz-Heilstätten on Sunday, the flames hit there – also driven by the wind – meters high.
The massive plumes of smoke could be seen from the lakes surrounding where the day trippers were lounging. In the evening, the district reported that 140 hectares of forest were on fire near Beelitz.
The city also began the first evacuations in the evening. “The fire is about 1 to 1.5 kilometers from the city limits,” said Bernhard Knuth in the late afternoon. The fire got out of control due to rising winds. Precise information on the extent of the damage is not yet available.
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The crisis team has now been set up in the town hall, said the mayor. Lists of residents are compiled. According to the information, all events at the current state garden show have been canceled immediately. “We hope that it will rain in the evening as announced,” said Knuth.
In the evening, Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) arrived at the operations center in Treuenbrietzen. For many in the area southwest of Berlin, it’s déjà vu. 400 hectares of forest had already burned there in 2018.
The fire has been raging for three days, eating its way through bone-dry pine forests. It’s hot, the smoke takes the air to breathe and the wind constantly fans the source of the fire, turns and keeps the situation so extremely “dynamic”, as the District Administrator of Potsdam-Mittelmark, Marko Köhler (SPD) explained. He had ordered the evacuation of Klausdorf half an hour earlier. As in 2018, when the fire came to a standstill shortly before the village.
Around 550 firefighters – men and women – were initially deployed, they are on their feet in shifts, eight hours in the biting smoke. A few kilometers further on, the Sabinchen festival was supposed to end on Sunday in Treuenbrietzen, but everything was taken down by the afternoon.
As in 2018, the residents of Frohnsdorf and Tiefenbrunnen are either staying with relatives or are being cared for in an emergency shelter in Treuenbrietzen. The district of Bardenitz should also be evacuated.
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The authorities wanted to massively increase the number of emergency services in the evening – to 750, as a spokeswoman for the district office explained. Forces from other federal states would also have to be requested, she said.
“Gusty winds fan all fires again and again,” said forest fire protection officer Raimund Engel on Sunday afternoon. He spoke of two “major damage situations”. In addition, the area in Treuenbrietzen is polluted with ammunition, making the work of the emergency services more difficult. “A lot has already gone up,” said the district spokeswoman.
Brandenburg’s forests are particularly vulnerable to forest fires. Because Brandenburg is one of the driest regions in Germany, and Germany is one of the areas in the world that is losing the most groundwater as a result of the climate crisis.
The situation has not recovered since the extremely hot summers of 2018 and 2019, and there is still drought deep in the soil. This spring, too, the precipitation was too low for the storage in the ground to be refilled. This is now also evident from the fact that more and more ponds, lakes and rivers in the region and in Berlin are drying up.
The current heat wave is further exacerbating the situation. In addition, due to climate change, such extreme weather conditions will occur more frequently and as unusually early and intensively as they do in Europe now, says Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the World Weather Organization (WMO) in Geneva, the dpa news agency. “Unfortunately, what we are experiencing today is a foretaste of the future.”
This is due to the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mainly due to the consumption of oil, gas and coal, as well as methane, which causes the greenhouse effect.
In view of the burning forests and drying up rivers, Tammo Westphal from the Green Youth in Brandenburg calls for more “ambitious climate protection: We expect the entire state government to finally give top priority to climate protection and climate adaptation.” Moore would have to be watered and forests made climate-stable.