Brandenburg Rejects Aerial Firefighter Proposals

Brandenburg RejectsImage: Courtesy of Viking Air Limited

Brandenburg Rejects Aerial Firefighter Proposals

Update: The same procedure as every year, James! This sentence probably best describes how project organizers in the German state of Brandenburg currently feel. A proposal to talk about installing a fleet of aerial firefighters in the province was just shut down, cold. This only 4 days ahead of a symposium which seeks to evaluate the current state of affairs and level of preparedness in regards to wildfires. A fairly unexpected response from Brandenburg’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Karl-Heinz Schröter (Social Democrat) who has arbitrarily and preemptively declined to afford consideration for the project. Instead, officials are reassuring everyone, that there is no need for aerial firefighters within the state. Status Quo: 1 | Common Sense: 0.

Again and again, officials repeat that helicopters from the German military and Police are more than sufficient. In contrast to this quick shutdown: Just a short two weeks ago, the press office of the ministry had stated it “did not want to make premature statements prior to the symposium on October 16.”

Peter Vida (BVB/Freie Wähler) who had requested consideration for the project from the ministry didn’t expect such a quick answer either, according to LR-Aktuell. He, along with most of us would have preferred to wait another month, until after the symposiums findings were made available to the ministry of internal affairs.

Several states in Germany had a season with wildfires running out of control, the last one in Brandenburg was completely unmanageable for several days due to World-war II ammunition contamination. Ammunition contamination is a serious topic in Germany and often hinders ground based fire troops from even moving into an area. A recent inferno in Meppen in’s home- province of Niedersachsen ran virtually unhindered for 5 weeks and its safe to say it would still be burning, if there had not been significant rainfalls.

Image: © dpa / Ilja Derstroff

The early political positioning causes big disappointment with those who sign responsible for bringing the presented concept to life in the first place. Frank Degen of Frank Air and Peer Forberg of Dresden Aerospace AG have been sinking countless hours into the concept. One of the early supporters of the project is Hannelore Wodtke, a local politician who serves for the Green Party in the area. She presented herself shocked about the speed and swiftness with which provincial government shut the ideas down. She is part of a strategic group seeking to find new business opportunities and employment, creating the structure and infrastructure to sustain business after big coal mining companies loose their grip on the area.

The Power Of The Dying Coal Industry

“There was not even an attempt to seek contact with us, nor did anyone ever reach out to the regional originators of the project” Wodtke criticizes. She is assuming less than stellar motives behind the move to shut the project down without looking at it: The still ongoing expansion of active coal-mines in the area will require the relocation of thousands of people over the next 20 years. LEAG a coal mining concern less concerned with the environment and the impacts of coal mining on nature than profits, smells coal under the airport of Welzow. Not surprisingly, a hidden but heavy push is underway to make that airport go away.

Image: Jason J. Baker/ – The coal mine of Welzow during our visit in September.

The Money Is There!

With 75% of the required funding for a fleet of aerial firefighters being provided by the European Union, Germany could get in on being better prepared for wildfires for a quarter on the dollar. At this time, we’re forced to watch the categorical blocking and shielding that now has to happen on a local and provincial level from a distance, before higher ups in politics get to deal with the issue and it becomes more of a national issue, rather than a provincial one.

Amphibious Aerial Firefighters could be located almost anywhere in Germany. The concept now needs help to gain traction on a national political level and get the support of politicians who are willing to look beyond the smoke.

Even though we do not have the funds to travel back and forth between Niedersachsen and Brandenburg, we’re staying well informed on the topic through the help of Lausitzer Rundschau reporter Jürgen Scholz and through our contact to the project organizers. Expect more on this in the coming weeks.