Wildfires in Germany, Czechia threatening tourist region
Berlin (Germany)- A large wildfire on the Germany-Czechia border is spreading and threatening to destroy a forested national park popular with tourists.
The fire in the region called Bohemian Switzerland on the Czechia side and the Saxon Switzerland national park on the German side, which started on the weekend, had seemed to be under control but spread early Thursday again, German news agency DPA reported.
Hundreds of firefighters on both sides of the border and with help from neighbouring Poland and Slovakia were battling the flames, while local authorities warned tourists to stay away.
About 250 hectares of forest are burning, and eight firefighting helicopters were helping to douse the flames, DPA reported.
Another large forest fire in the Elbe-Elster district in the eastern German state of Brandenburg also flared up again on Wednesday evening.
Germany’s minister for agriculture said Wednesday night the government would help battle the fires and praised those already working to extinguish them. Germany’s army has sent several military helicopters to both fires to support local units.
“The emergency forces are already doing a great job here,” Cem Ozdemir said.
The fight against the fire in Brandenburg has been further complicated because some areas are contaminated with World War II ammunition and can only be extinguished from the air by helicopters. Firefighters are too dangerous to enter these areas as old ammunition triggered by the heat or people stepping on it can explode anytime.
Forest fires Germany
In Germany in the year of the heat wave of 2003, the burnt forest area was 25% larger than the average across 1991-2002, namely 1315 ha. In 1992 the largest site of burnt forest since 1990 was registered, with 4908 ha and estimated damage of 12.8 million €. In the “record summer” of 2003, the maximum air temperature reached 39.1ºC, and the maximum precipitation deficiency was in Northeast Germany, where stand conditions and plantation types (sandy soils, pine stands) generally cause a full forest fire risk.
Almost every fire starts on the ground – it, therefore, means that since the last few decades undergrowth of grasses in forests has been increasing and favouring two grass species that rank very highly on the scale of inflammability, namely wood small-reed and wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa). Furthermore, the grass layer contributes to increased evaporation and therefore to further desiccation. Reasons for increasing grass layer are thought to be on the one hand atmospheric nitrogen deposition and acidification, and on the other hand climate warming in combination with dryer summers. Therefore, dry summers increase the risk of forest fires not only in the year itself, but also in the following years