After the outbreak of other large fires in forest and farmland in Brandenburg, the fire brigade in the south of the state is continuing to fight against the spread of the flames. According to the Elbe-Elster district, the fire spread over an area of 850 hectares. An area that is about four times the size of the Great Tiergarten in Berlin – it has 210 hectares – or almost 1200 soccer fields.
Brandenburg’s Interior Minister Michael Stübgen (CDU) fears that the operation can drag on for a long time. “Deleting it completely will probably take weeks,” he said on Tuesday in the operational area. The cause of the fire is so far unclear. It is noticeable that small fires have broken out several times in the past few weeks at the spot where the fire broke out. There are no more precise findings.
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Due to detonations in the ground, new areas suspected of being used for munitions were discovered that had not yet been recorded on maps. The explosive ordnance disposal service is therefore deployed in the area. The fire is not yet under control, the minister said. The wind should freshen up again in the afternoon.
According to the district, two Bundeswehr helicopters have now arrived in the forest fire area. Five more were requested. Since the affected area is partially contaminated with ammunition, emergency services cannot access the burning areas there. This is where the helicopters come in handy.
On Monday, Rehfeld, Kölsa and Kölsa-Siedlung in the city of Falkenberg (Elster) had to be evacuated – around 300 people were affected and had to spend the night in emergency shelters. According to the deputy forest fire protection officer Philipp Haase, the evacuation on Monday evening was difficult because some residents refused to leave their homes.
People were able to return to Rehfeld and Kölsa by Tuesday noon, but the Kölsa settlement cannot yet be entered again, according to the fire-fighting administrative staff in Elbe-Elster. RBB information that the village of Lönnewitz was also evacuated is not correct, said Dirk Gebhardt, chief of administrative staff. The situation is still very tense, the fire is not under control.
The fire brigade was on site on Tuesday with 500 emergency services, according to the Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior. The difficult situation was caused “above all by violent gusts of wind, which made the extinguishing work of the firefighters considerably more difficult and in some cases even impossible,” it said in a statement late Monday evening. The state fire brigade association has described the forest fire as the largest forest fire in Brandenburg this year.
Philipp Haase said that the darkness also made extinguishing work difficult, which is why only limited extinguishing measures were possible at night. However, the fire is also less active at night because of the calmer air conditions.
According to the German Weather Service (DWD), gusts of wind of up to 60 kilometers per hour are also expected on Tuesday, which could further ignite the fire. “Unfortunately, wind is always bad in this case,” said the spokeswoman. Showers have also been announced for the region, but it is unclear when they will reach the fire area, and little rain is expected. “Everything depends on the weather conditions,” said district spokesman Torsten Hoffgaard.
Deutsche Bahn interrupted traffic between Leipzig and Cottbus because of the fire. The section between Torgau and Falkenberg (Elster) of the RE10 line was affected, the railway said on Tuesday morning. The stops are omitted because the fire brigade is on duty there due to an embankment fire.
Alternatively, buses should run between Falkenberg (Elster) and Torgau. According to the spokesman, train traffic should remain interrupted until midday.
The fire had spread from 10 hectares in the early Monday afternoon to around 100 hectares within a very short time. In one case, wind turbines are located on or near the affected areas. The fire was classified as a major damage situation, so the district took over the management of the operation.
In the course of the operation, eight emergency services were injured, six of them were taken to the hospital. In addition, a pig fattening facility in the Kölsa settlement burned down. “I estimate that a total of around a thousand piglets died,” says Dirk Gebhardt, head of the administrative staff from the Elbe-Elster district. But you still don’t have a complete picture, said Gebhardt. In his view, there was no chance to save the animals because the fire spread at such a speed on Monday evening that even the firefighters had great difficulty getting to safety.
The biggest forest fire of the year so far in Elbe-Elster and Brandenburg occurred at the end of June on the border with Saxony in Gohrischheide – around 20 kilometers away. The fire had spread in the direction of Mühlberg (Elbe-Elster) in Brandenburg. More than 800 hectares were at times in flames. The locations of Kröbeln and Kosilenzien in the town of Bad Liebenwerda had to be evacuated in the meantime.
Areas north of Berlin near Gransee were also affected on Monday. There, the fire brigade in the district of Oberhavel fought a fire on around 60 hectares of fields and forests. It was contained and is now under control. “However, the emergency services will continue to carry out post-extinguishing work there all day long,” said Philipp Haase: “Although there are no longer any open flames, there is always smoke developing in the affected forest area.”
The emergency services of the fire brigade in Brandenburg are currently fighting several forest fires – some of which were caused by arson. The police said that this was the case with a series of fires in the Oranienburg area (Oberhavel).
Within a few days there had been numerous small fires in close proximity to each other. Traces were secured, said Christin Knospe, spokeswoman for the police department north of the German Press Agency on Monday. “We check the connections.”
According to the Ministry of the Environment, human activity causes more than 90 percent of all forest fires with up to 99 percent of the areas damaged by forest fires. “That causes us massive problems,” reported Deputy Forest Fire Protection Officer Philipp Haase on Monday.
According to the Ministry of the Environment, the highest level of forest fire risk was five in almost the entire country on Monday. Only in Potsdam-Mittelmark was the second highest level four. Brandenburg has a forest area of around 1.1 million hectares.
In the Lieberoser Heide, the emergency services are still doing post-extinguishing work after the big fire on an area of 90 hectares three weeks ago. There are still up to 20 smaller fires, said Haase.