The first severe forest fires of this summer in some southern countries, but also in Germany, are a clear indication of the explosive development in vegetation fires, according to the vegetation fire expert in the Association for the Promotion of German Fire Protection (vfdb), Dr Ulrich Cimolino. Just recently - as several times in previous years - the Spanish tourist stronghold Costa del Sol was affected. There, more than 3000 people, including many tourists, had to be brought to safety.
"In Germany, despite a lot of rainfall in some regions, the soil dryness and the average temperature are higher than would normally be expected for the end of spring," Cimolino points out. "There have therefore already been fires in some regions that could only be extinguished relatively quickly because they were discovered and fought immediately."
In other countries, Cimolino says, the season for major fires has also started very early this year. In Greece, he said, there were so many fires around Athens that evacuations were necessary in one suburb. Already in April, the number of fires requiring the intervention of the Greek fire brigades was unusually high at over 400.
The vfdb's vegetation fire expert, head of the forest fire working group in the German Fire Brigades Association (DFV) and of the vfdb's Expert Commission on Heavy Rain 2021, points out that vegetation fires are among the weather-related or weather-influenced operations: "These can quickly develop into dynamic major damage situations if the drought is severe and the resistance of the vegetation is low due to this and other damage (e.g. storm, bark beetle). As a result, the prevailing vegetation can easily ignite and burn quickly." Cimolino cites conifers, eucalyptus and birch trees as examples.
At the same time, Cimolino points to a new forecast for Germany until the year 2028 that was disseminated by the German Weather Service a few days ago. According to this, an average temperature of up to one degree higher than before is expected regionally. "That sounds quite little, but it increases the explosiveness of the vegetation fire situation very significantly. Because it is impossible for vegetation or even silviculture in hazard prevention to fully adjust to this in time," says Cimolino.
vfdb President Dirk Aschenbrenner therefore demands that the possible developments of this concretely predicted climate change for vegetation fires be quickly investigated by science. This should be used to develop scenarios including suitable proposals for action for forestry, nature conservation and emergency response. At the same time, work must be done to improve early detection, especially in the area of weather-related situations. Furthermore, operational control and communication, even of large units, must be made better and more robust, and the population must again be more involved in their own protection. "Suitable special reconnaissance and rescue equipment must be developed for special situations," says Aschenbrenner. It would be helpful to strengthen European networking in particular. Learning from each other is necessary to be able to help each other better.
At its joint stand with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Leiter der Berufsfeuerwehren (AGBF bund), the vfdb will provide information on the subject of vegetation fires in presentations during the world's leading trade fair INTERSCHUTZ (20 to 25 June) in Hanover. In addition, the vfdb experts will be available to answer questions.