Red Tape Prevents Aerial Firefighting In Europe
Opinion Editorial written by Jason J. Baker — Imagine a 5 year old child sitting in a pile of dry leafs, playing with matches. Would you ask the child to stop? We know from experience that the child may eventually drop a match, causing some of the leafs to catch fire and you know from experience how quickly a pile of dry leafs can create quite a fire.
What do children do when they try to extinguish a fire? Most will try to blow the flames out, only some will be smart enough to step on the fire while it’s in its developmental stages. The fewest have enough knowledge about fire to have a bucket of water of garden-hose nearby. Eventually, most children may just scream and run away.
Except, the five year old kid is probably a bunch smarter than that and the story above describes the behavior of many politicians and especially decision makers in the German Government as well as the Feuerwehr.
“We believe to be well equipped to deal with the increasing risk of wildfires in Germany”, the German Firefighting Associations vice president Rudolf Römer stated in July 2018. He also said that “there are not enough (large enough) lakes to fill the tankers.” Please let this statement sink in! In fact none of the various states in Germany are currently seriously considering the acquisition of an aerial firefighter. We could start with a small one like the Fireboss and other options would include the Canadair/ Viking CL415/ 515 or, for example a Beriev Be200.
Hold It! We Have Experts!
The wildfire – expert Johann Goldammer from the Center for Global Fire Surveillance (Zentrum für globale Feuerüberwachung) in Freiburg said: “We could purchase equipment and share it between states – however constitutional challenges prevent such”. Instead, we keep counting on helicopters from the German military and the German police, which can be equipped with external load tanks. These “Bambi Buckets” carry anywhere between 270 liters and 10.600 liters of water. If lucky, some of them are currently airworthy. We also count on Recovery/ Firefighting Tanks, ground personnel and we additionally loudly pray for rain, when and if reality hits.
Say Again…You did what??
On September 3rd of 2018, a military helicopter from the German Bundeswehr fired a test rocket into the moorland of Meppen. Awesome idea after the driest and hottest summer on record, you’d say. But, fear not! The fire was quickly noticed and the German Bundeswehr dispatched one of its two “Löschpanzer” (Recovery Vehicle/ Tank) to the scene. I think it broke down with technical difficulties. The other one they have is in the shop already. Moving a 50 ton colossus is a logistical challenge, the thing has a bit over 100 miles of range, is slow and it isn’t exactly the toy of choice on a fire like this. Then they dispatched ground personnel. The fire is still ongoing as of this writing – but sure as clockwork, we don’t need no stinkin’ aerial firefighter plane! Fact: This fire could have been history a day or three after it started.
The ultimate question for those of us in Germany and Europe remains. Will we continue to avoid the conversation and point at the usual excuses, ranging from lack of money or a lack of legal framework as well as the standard statement “we’ve never done it like this”, or will we begin to have a conversation about an issue that isn’t about to go away? If so, when? When the Black-forest catches fire? When people die? There are EU countries who have aerial firefighting airplanes. Need a demo?
The Stonewalling Must Stop!
Ignoring and stonewalling the issue isn’t a bagatelle, its criminal negligence, just as it is a criminal act to flick a cigarette out of a vehicle, knowing full well that Smokey the Bear is coughing. Firing rockets into dry woods currently tops the list and criminal proceedings have started against the Bundeswehr.
The time to have the conversation is yesterday, folks! Will we continue to push like on Facebook when the topic comes up, or will we begin to organize resources to make the case for aerial firefighting on a well thought out and lobbied European level. The money is there, the planes are available and people who inhale smoke for weeks will greatly appreciate the noise of aerial firefighters going to battle. For once, even the environmentalists will have a party about all the saved bugs and critters. When the opportunity to make things better knocks, we should open that door!
Jason Baker works as a freelance writer and marketing & advertising consultant. He holds a commercial pilot certificate (SEL/SES/MEL), instrument rating as well as advanced & instrument ground instructor certificate. Jason is the owner & managing editor of Seaplanemagazine.com. For more information about consulting services offered, click on Consulting & Services. Advertising spots for 2019 are being offered now. If your company wishes to appear here in 2019, the time to get in touch is now.