29.07.2022, Brandenburg, Falkenberg: Ein verkohlter Stamm einer Kiefer liegt in einem Wald im Landkreis Elbe-Elster auf dem mit Asche bedeckten Boden. Foto: Sebastian Willnow/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

In the forest fire area in southern Brandenburg, the fight against the fire flaring up again continues. Even on the seventh day since the fire broke out, the danger in the Elbe-Elster district was not over. The forces were increased to take action against the embers.

At least the rain brought some relief. The so-called major damage situation, with which emergency services can be called from other areas, continues to exist. The local forces in Kölsa-Rehfeld are concerned about the weather forecast for the coming days, which sees a high risk of forest fires.

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According to the district, the number of emergency services in the Elbe-Elster district grew from 160 to 250. They continue to fight embers on 500 hectares. Firefighters have feared the fire would flare up for days.

Some help came from rain on Saturday evening, which soaked the ground about five centimeters deep, as the administrative staff of the district announced on Sunday morning. At the same time, the precipitation showed hot spots on the outskirts, because particularly heavy smoke developed there.

The forest fire not far from the Saxon border broke out on Monday and quickly spread to around 800 hectares – an area about four times the size of Monaco.

Firefighters from the Uckermark in the north helped fight the fire on Sunday. According to the district, 89 firefighters with 22 vehicles helped in the southern area. In addition, the technical relief organization of the Berlin Steglitz-Zehlendorf branch has taken over the use of drones with thermal cameras to examine temperatures in deeper layers of the ground.

Road construction in the forest fire area is also progressing. So far, according to further information, nine kilometers of path have been created for unhindered progress to possible fire sites. The Bundeswehr continues to help on the ground, including with two armored engineer vehicles and four fire engines. Two water cannons from the police and four water cannons from the federal police are to be used to wet the ground and render embers harmless.

The aid organization @fire, which has already specifically burned down vegetation on federal highway 183, will continue its work on Sunday, it said. The controlled use of fire reduces the fire load in the last sections of the area in order to prevent the fire from spreading. The federal road 183 between Beilrode and Marxdorf remains closed so that the emergency vehicles can reach the fire sites unhindered.

The so-called major damage situation also persisted on Sunday, and a new decision is to be made at the beginning of the week. This allows the district to ask emergency services from other areas for support because their own forces cannot cope with the situation on their own. According to the weather forecast, the administrative staff sees a high risk of forest fires for the coming days. Sufficient rain is not predicted by the German Weather Service.

Since the beginning of the forest fire season, more than 400 forest fires have been registered across the country – on an area of ​​almost 1000 hectares. The season ends in September. 2022 could surpass the devastating 2018 wildfire season if there is insufficient rainfall, the country’s deputy wildfire prevention commissioner estimated. Four years ago, in the drought summer, around 1,680 hectares of forest burned in 512 fires.

Meanwhile, the forest farmers’ association from the state called for more support for private forest owners in forest fire prevention. Individual forest owners are sometimes overwhelmed with maintaining forest fire protection strips on roads and railway lines and with building paths, said the chairman Enno Rosenthal.

He sees responsibility in the future with the state. The state forest authorities should take over forest fire prevention with the help of EU funds, as they have better staff and technical equipment.

The discussion about forest conversion is also gaining momentum in view of the fires. Brandenburg is the land of pines – this tree species dominates the total forest area with around 70 percent. Even if half of it is rebuilt, that would be a mammoth task, said the chairman of the state association of the German Forest Protection Association, Gregor Beyer, of the dpa.

He urged realism, forest conversion is a task for generations. “It annoys me that all possible responsible persons and associations say that we have to change something immediately. But we can’t change anything immediately, we can only finally start doing our homework in a very long time.”

In the past ten years, Beyer calculated that around 18,000 hectares of the 1.1 million hectares of forest covering more than a third of the country’s area had been converted. Forest conversion is expensive. “We are talking about 10,000 euros per hectare depending on the tree species. In this area, we are pursuing a policy of small steps.” One of the greatest challenges is to motivate forest owners to convert their areas. It’s about funding and grants. (dpa)