Jurisdiction Games Delay Firefighter Efforts
Those of you following our continued coverage into the topic of bringing Aerial Firefighters to Germany had their last update a few weeks ago, when Brandenburg’s Minister for Internal Affairs turned the idea down, just four days prior to an expert symposium, seeking to evaluate the provinces level of preparedness for wildfires.
The symposium came and went, but contrary to previous assurances made to Frank Degen and Peer Forberg, both originators of the concept didn’t receive invites nor were there any planned press statements in the works.
Seaplanemagazine.com reached out to the ministry, requesting information on possible press statements from the symposium – which lead to an interesting telephone conversation with the person tasked for public relations. During the call we learned that the ministry kicked the discussion off, but local fire protection experts skipped on the opportunity to discuss the proposal.
Major arguments against bringing aerial firefighting equipment range from the belief that fixed wing aircraft are bigger than helicopters and therefore must be sporting a higher hourly expenses (!) to a lack of accessible water in Germany. Provincial governments moan under hourly expenses of between €41,000 – 45,000 per hour, every- time a government owned helicopter takes off.
The Resc_EU study reveals approximately €23,000 in hourly operating expenses for a CL-415. Further, Peer Forberg researched whats fact and fiction about the lack of accessible water – finding that Germany, in contrast to other European countries which have Aerial Firefighters – has 357,000 square kilometers excluding lakes, easily occupying third place in terms of water available. Compared countries: Italy, France, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Croatia and Germany.
Meanwhile letters to the Ministry of Internal Affairs reveal an unclear jurisdiction- situation, with one ministry referring back to local and provincial governments – who in turn quickly refer us right back to the government, stating that the acquisition of such equipment requires major help from big – not small government. In fact, by acting swiftly, Germany could acquire the proper equipment for approximately a quarter on the dollar – due to massive EU funding availability.
Brandenburg alone had more than 480 wildfires in 2018 – some of which went uncontrolled for days and weeks. In our own province of Lower Saxony, the leader of the pack was Meppen, a moor-fire that raged for nearly 5 weeks and was at last solved by rainfall, after the military itself had shot a rocket into blistering dry land.
The Press Isn’t Exactly Welcome
Editorial note: We here at Seaplanemagazine.com certainly don’t have the funds to spend full days on the road in order to attend expert round-tables and meetings which sometimes afford less than one hour to present a case to seemingly systemically misinformed people. But, we sincerely tried to attend a recent event in Eisenhüttenstadt, where again – Fire Chiefs from the province of Brandenburg met for a panel meeting.
Frank Degen managed to attend the event and presented the concept plan to the present parties. Even under the premise of a self prescribed gag-order, we were told that this was “Not an event for the press”. Work now continues in the background to find out exactly where the center of opposition is located and who within the complex of government and bureaucracy will entertain the idea and bring it to those who decide. So far – it seems that the mix of local airport opponents, the big coal industry and people looking to sell firefighting tanks are the source of the jam. The surprising thing for anyone digging deeper is, that opposition even comes from people tasked with the much needed structural development of the region after the planned exit from coal energy. Coal mining has left a large part of affected environment in scrambles and unusable for the next several decades.
We’ll continue to monitor and report from afar. Both organizers of the project stand alone – working for enthusiastic compliments and warm handshakes, both spend their limited free time to kick off discussions which would enable the country to react to wildfires more effectively.