The highest level of warning has been issued in several regions across Germany as forest fires broke out in a number of federal states on Tuesday.
A 10,000-square-meter wooded area was on fire at Baldeneysee near Essen on Tuesday morning, affecting a popular viewing platform in the Schellenberger Forest.
Forest fires also broke out in several regions of Brandenburg. South of the city of Neustadt, a 3,000- square-meter wooded area was on fire, and a 2-hectare area was also burning near the Felixsee in the Spree-Neisse district.
In the federal state of Brandenburg, the Ministry of the Environment issued the highest level of warning at Level 5. Level 4 was issued for parts of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Due to the acute danger of forest fires, the German Weather Service’s (DWD) forest fire hazard index rated the south of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, northern Saxony, eastern Saxony-Anhalt and the region around Celle in Lower Saxony as being at “severe risk.”
Many of the traditional bonfires that usually play a part in Easter celebrations across Germany had to be canceled due to the acute danger of forest fires.
In many regions of Germany, “soils are much drier than the long-term average at the start of the vegetation period in 2019,” said Udo Busch, head of agricultural meteorology at the German Weather Service.
The risk of forest fires has been slightly higher at the start of 2019 than last year, warned Mathias Assmann, spokesman for the Lower Saxony State Forest, adding that “the cause is the dry plant residues from last year.”
The forestry spokesperson said that “like a hair dryer, the wind dries old grass and can also contribute to the rapid spread of a fire. Therefore, wind and drought are important factors in the risk of forest fires, and temperatures only play a secondary role.”
Forests in central Europe have not only been affected by drought stress but also by “bark beetle proliferation, damage from snow masses and storms,” Martin Neumeyer, managing director of the Bavarian State Forestry Office, told the German press agency (dpa).
Last year, 64.4 million cubic meters of timber were harvested in Germany, according to the Federal Association of the German Sawmill and Wood Industry (DeSH). Since 2007, when Storm Kyrill uprooted huge forest sections, the amount of timber harvested in Germany has been lower.
“Climate change has also arrived in the forest,” Neumeyer added.