Potsdam – In the atheistic Brandenburg, people prefer not to trust the weather gods. After the two serious forest fires in Potsdam-Mittelmark at the weekend, the state parliament debated fire protection and civil protection on Thursday in a current hour requested by the CDU and voted with a large majority for a request from the red-black-green coalition factions to arm themselves better.

Forest roads partly in bad condition

“We were very lucky that the rain came, but we can’t rely on luck,” said CDU faction leader Jan Redmann. “We have to act, quickly and purposefully.” In Treuenbrietzen and Beelitz, around 200 hectares of pine forest burned next to residential areas, people in both places had to leave their homes temporarily. The fires were brought under control because rain set in on Monday night. “And if emergency services hadn’t happened to be nearby in Treuenbrietzen, I don’t think it would have been possible to keep the fire away from Beelitz,” says Redmann. After the devastating fire four years ago in Treuenbrietzen, some things had already been improved, according to the parliamentary group leader, and investments had been made in technology. But more extinguishing water wells would have to be set up across the country, and forest roads would have to be brought into better condition. At the weekend in Treuenbrietzen, paths were so sodden by the fire-fighting water that emergency vehicles threatened to slip.

Special tank extinguishing vehicles were purchased

“We must expect further forest fires to break out at any time,” said Interior Minister Michael Stübgen (CDU). The country responded to the 2018 fires. 32 new tank firefighting vehicles specially tailored to Brandenburg’s forest firefighting requirements have been ordered, 27 of which have already been delivered. “All 27 were in action at the weekend,” says Stübgen. The Ministry of the Interior has provided 8.4 million euros in funding for this alone. The procurement of five high-pressure pump systems for transporting water over long distances was supported with more than five million euros, as the ministry announced on request. Thermal imaging cameras were also purchased. 40 million euros will be made available for the building infrastructure of the voluntary fire services. “But,” said Stübgen very clearly in the state parliament: “We have to do more. I will remind you of this at the budget deliberations.”

Request to station fire-fighting aircraft rejected

A new application by the AfD parliamentary group to station a squadron of fire-fighting aircraft at the airfield in Welzow with the adjacent Sedlitzer See was rejected on Thursday. The planes are particularly suitable for fires on areas contaminated with ammunition, said Lars Schieske, a member of the AfD from Lausitz, who is the leader of the volunteer fire brigade in Kiekebusch. According to Schieske, agricultural aircraft could be used for this, which could be refueled at every runway. However, the country had rejected the plan earlier because, according to the results of a feasibility study, the use of police and army helicopters with extinguishing baskets was more practicable.

More support for forest conversion

The Green MP Ricarda Budke called for a more rapid expansion of renewable energies in Brandenburg in view of the climate crisis that is causing forest fires. In addition, the conversion of the pine forest to a “climate-stable” forest must be advanced. A change in the hunting law is necessary for this, since game eats off the young trees. Municipalities and private individuals should be given more support from the state when it comes to forest conversion, said Marlen Block, a member of the Left Party. Around 650,000 hectares of the 1.1 million hectares of forest in the Mark are private forests in the hands of around 100,000 owners.

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Stübgen: Brandenburg must invest 300 million euros in civil protection

That the current hour was so red hot in the truest sense – coincidence. It had been applied for before the fire broke out in Mittelmark and was intended to focus on civil protection against the background of the Ukraine war. With the Bundeswehr Operations Command in Geltow and the state’s function as a hub for troop deployments to the east, “Brandenburg is also a potential military target,” warned CDU MP Björn Lakenmacher.
“There’s no point in pouring bunker concrete into the Brandenburg sand,” said Minister Stübgen. But existing structures could potentially be expanded into shelters. “We also have to protect our sensitive infrastructure, including against cyber attacks.” The federal government is called upon to do so. Anyone who – correctly – invests 100 billion euros in the Bundeswehr must also invest ten billion in civil protection. Brandenburg must make its contribution – and according to Stübgen’s calculation it is high: he demands that Brandenburg spend 300 million euros on civil protection in the next ten years.