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“Future challenges of forest fires in Germany” Workshop results of June 17, 2022

On June 17th 2022, An expert workshop was conducted on the future challenges relating to wildfires in Germany (coming 10-15 years) as a side event of the INTERFORST Trade Fair in Munich Germany. The workshop outcomes are now presented in the article below:


The European Forest Institute, coordinator of the Waldbrand Klima Resilienz (WKR) project with the Forstliche Versuchs- und Forschungsanstalt Baden-Württemberg, and the Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg (OTH Regensburg) in cooperation with the Pau Costa Foundation, coordinator of the FIRE-IN Thematic Working Group “Landscape Fire Crisis Mitigation” developed a workshop to estimate the likely major challenges for landscape fire management in Germany in the next 10-15 years.


The aim of the workshop was to on the one hand establish what solutions-providers deem as relevant in the coming years and on the other hand cross-reference these estimations with those of thematic experts working on wildfire management in the German context. The workshop was part of a series of Fire-IN National Hub events which place in different countries in 2022. The FIRE-IN project (2017-2022) builds on a significant and heterogeneous pan-European network of practitioners for identifying and harmonizing operational capability gaps in a central process to create a more demand-driven approach for future R&D and standardization programs supported by the European Commission. In addition, FIRE-IN aims to share the knowledge on best practices and already available solutions in the field of Fire & Rescue. 


The workshop was designed by the teams from the PCF, EFI and the OTH Regensburg to encompass three parts; in the first part – the input phase – three speakers gave short presentations on current challenges in wildfire management. Presented were the topics “FIRE-IN Future Fire Response Challenges in Europe” (Lindon Pronto, EFI), “Waldbrand Klima Resilienz” (Alexander Held, EFI), and “Schnappschüsse aus einer bundesweiten Waldbrandbefragung” (Dr. Christoph Hartebrodt, Baden-Württemberg Forest Research Institute). Following this, the participants were briefed by Prof. Dr. Markus Bresinsky (OTH) on three scenarios on how wildfires would impact Bavaria over the next three to five years, thus providing the basis for the working groups in which the participants were to participate. The scenarios had previously been developed by the OTH Regensburg team with the help of various experts on forestry, fire behavior, and many other related fields.

The participants generally concluded that opportunities lie in the recognition that civil protection in Germany is underdeveloped. Nationwide, overarching guidelines for all organizations are required and the fact that Germany has a lack of (organizational) competence centers coupled with the federalist system – is a major inhibitor to disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. The volunteer-based system was also overwhelmed by large-scale, long-lasting disasters. The catastrophic flood in 2021 and the high levels of wildfires in the Summer of 2022 represents a wake-up call for policymakers and the public. These events offer a window of opportunity for restructuring and investments in better prevention measures and response capabilities. Other opportunities for participants include innovation transfer and synergies between sectors through networking, collaboration, and dialogue.


Summarized:

  • Personnel must be motivated, available, trained (specialization), and operational

  • Communication experts and advisors in science, organizations, and institutions are needed and the exchange and communication between actors must be improved. A lack of thematic expertise within response agencies is a significant inhibiter in decision-making and communications elements

  • Materials and techniques (i.e., tools) are expected to be suitable, available, modern, combined, and specialized. However, the need to establish specialized units with expertise and central coordination offices at federal and state level is anticipated

  • Basic training must be developed, implemented and conducted for all responders; specialized training and competencies for some individual response groups is needed

  • The compatibility across municipal, state, and federal borders must be ensured at the organizational level. Training facilities for forestry and firefighting, and competence centers at federal and state level are requested, as well as a national coordination office above all organizations.

Identified current strengths

  • Existing readiness, capabilities, technology, and knowledge, and collaboration among the various stakeholders in wildland fire operations; number of volunteers; access

Identified current weaknesses

  • Weak interorganizational collaboration: Collaboration between sectors and domains is heavily influenced by organizational cultures and "silo thinking"

  • Technology and equipment are often already available, yet need to be better utilized. The analyses particularly emphasized that technology alone is not sufficient, nor is it always operational or appropriately utilized

  • Insufficient political willingness and understanding of the issue, as well as the existence of too many regulations hampers both progress (e.g., sufficient investments in prevention or efficient response procedures with unclear jurisdictions) and response

  • Lessons learned from deployment experiences need to be shared and illustrated with organizations and policy actors

  • Short-term thinking and strong individual interests (e.g., ego) placed ahead cooperation were also identified as weaknesses

  • A lack of operational and technical personnel and an overly strong focus on reaction instead of prevention results in only chasing the issues. More investment is needed in prevention and in closing conceptual gaps in post-fire response and prevention. Only in this way can the associated dangers of cascading effects be avoided

Identified current threats

  • Insufficient prevention measures and un/under-used [application of] innovation

  • An increased deployment of technology also always represents an increased risk for sources of error

  • Lack of awareness for the topic amongst society and politics, threatens to produce insufficient political action, investments and civil society engagement in the face of an increasing hazard/threat

Identified future requirements

Tactics/Strategy/Guidelines:

  • Nationwide and overarching guidelines for all organizations are required

  • Need for (organizational) wildfire thematic competence centers

Personnel:

  • Need communication experts and advisors in science, organizations, and institutions

  • Personnel must be motivated, available, trained (specialization), and operational

  • Increased exchange and communication between actors needed

Materials/Techniques:

  • Suitable, available, modern, combined, and specialized tools needed

  • Diversity of actors’ competencies must be exploited; integration of all resources available (firefighters, forestry, technical relief, etc.) is important

  • Better/more appropriate materials management needed over immediate “flashy” investments (e.g., reactive purchasing of aircraft or fire trucks)

Organizational:

  • Specialized units with expertise and competencies must be trained/established

  • Central coordination office at federal and state levels needed

  • Wildfire-specific units needed, command competency and incident advisers needed


Education/Training:

  • More basic trainings for all forces, and specialized training for some (at firefighting academies and external institutions)

  • Compatibility across municipal, state, federal borders must be developed/enhanced

  • Training for citizens and government officials (from urban/rural planning to home protection (i.e., firewise) to evacuation protocols); wildfire science at universities

Facilities

  • Training facilities needed for forestry professionals, firefighters, relevant responders

  • Competence centers at federal and state level needed

  • Network/coordination office/control center above organizations

Other

  • Coordinated public relations work at all political and spatial levels; sensitize population

  • Coordination, leadership, inspiration/vision for integrated fire management

  • Knowing and collaborating with each other; trust and confidence building will be crucial




The following organizations participated:

  • European Forest Institute (EFI) 

  • Pau Costa Foundation (PCF) 

  • Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg (OTH Regensburg) 

  • Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) 

  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Naturwissenschaftlich-Technische Trendanalyse INT 

  • Forstliche Versuchs- und Forschungsanstalt Baden-Württemberg

  • Prepared International

  • Feuerwehr Erlangen & Forst

  • Staatliche Feuerwehrschule Regensburg

  • Draeger

  • OroraTech - Luft- und Raumfahrtunternehmen

  • Bosch

  • Versicherungskammer Bayern

  • Ministerium für Ernährung, Ländlichen Raum und Verbraucherschutz Baden-Württemberg

  • Kuratorium für Waldarbeit und Forsttechnik

  • Skyseed

  • Wahlers Forsttechnik

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