Fire brigade prepares for longer operation
After the outbreak of the forest fire in the Lieberoser Heide in southeastern Brandenburg, the fire department is preparing for a prolonged operation.
Chief of Operations Christian Liebe said Tuesday that he estimates firefighting will last at least until Wednesday. Rain is not forecast until Thursday, he said. Because the area is contaminated with munitions, firefighters cannot enter the area, but can only extinguish from the edges.
On Monday, the fire had broken out in the Lieberoser Heide. In the meantime, the fire has spread to 30 hectares, according to the district of Dahme-Spreewald. Reasons are a changing wind direction and the great drought, said a spokeswoman on Tuesday afternoon. A total of 215 firefighters were involved in the firefighting efforts, she said. Because the area is contaminated with munitions, firefighters could not enter the area, but could only extinguish from the edges. Extinguishing was also carried out from the air with the help of a helicopter. On Tuesday morning, the operation command had still spoken of a 13-hectare fire area. The fire had broken out on Monday.
"The emergency forces have the situation on the ground under control," said the spokeswoman for the district of Dahme-Spreewald. There was also no danger to the population. District Administrator Stephan Loge, who went to see the situation for himself, said, "Experiences of recent years show us that the fire is insidious due to the vagaries and high drought."
At the former military training area in Lieberos Heath, a fire blazed across 100 hectares in late June 2019. It took a week to extinguish the fire. The danger there remains high with the great drought and the current temperatures. Forest fire warning level 4 - the second highest - is currently in effect in the Dahme-Spreewald district.
In view of the forest fires in Brandenburg, Forestry and Climate Protection Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) called for a faster conversion of the forest with significantly more deciduous trees. There are still 80 percent pine forests, he said. "Bringing in deciduous trees is the order of the day," Vogel told RBB-Inforadio on Tuesday.
600,000 hectares of coniferous forest would have to be converted in total, but right now there are less than 5,000 hectares per year. That is not enough. The conversion must be managed within one generation because of climate change, Vogel said. "Otherwise, we may soon have no forests left in Brandenburg." In total, Brandenburg has more than one million hectares of forest.
Vogel spoke of the current fourth drought year in five years. So far, 755 hectares of forest have burned, but the forest fire season is just beginning. Eighty percent of the fires are caused by people, for example by cigarettes or arson. In the meantime, however, the reporting system has been improved, and most fires are discovered quickly and therefore remain very small.
Brandenburg has the largest percentage of munitions-contaminated areas in Germany. There are conversion areas - areas contaminated by the withdrawal of Russian troops - as well as areas once used for military purposes. Explosive ordnance from World War II is still suspected on 350,000 hectares.
There was also another fire on the border between Saxony and Brandenburg on Sunday. Near Arzberg in the district of North Saxony, a fire had spread over about 1.5 hectares, police said Monday. Volunteer fire departments from Saxony and Brandenburg were able to prevent further spread.
According to the fire department, spontaneous combustion is unlikely. That is why the police are now investigating arson. The amount of damage was still unclear.
At the end of June, there had been a fire for days in Gohrischheide, about 20 kilometers away. According to the authorities, it was the biggest forest fire in Saxony in 30 years. The damage is in the tens of millions. Here, too, the investigators assume that the fire was caused by arson - residues of fire accelerants were found in three places.
Image by Cornell Fruhauf