German Wildland fire - another perspective. Smd. interested?


#1

Hello!

Since it broke out yesterday, I am following the German media around the ‘desaterous wildfire’ near Berlin, Germany. Sometimes I am sitting here, shaking my head, sometimes I’m only shaking it. :hushed:

Anybody interested in an perspective of foregin events? I’d like to try and give you the German side - and would be quite interested in comments and reactions thru the different cultures, regions and departments.

Right now, I’m afraid, Germany may not get quite good grades in this… - although, I’m absolutely sure, the boots on the ground work to the best of their knowledge and abilities with the ressources at hand. Unquestionably a total different set of circumstances, experience and, especially, training and equipment (99% of the FF’s I saw in the media were wearing complete structural bunker-gear, sometimes inluding SCBA or at least full-face masks with mainly gasfilter-cartridges or in combination particulate-filters)

Let me know!

Markus


#2

I’d be interested, especially if you can provide additional links to information. It’s interesting to watch the European apparatus at work. The presence of unexploded WWII munitions adds a twist we don’t usually encounter in this country, thankfully


#3

I would be interested as well, especially on the safety side of the shop. Would like to know more about their wildland ppe, minimum training standards and rehab sog’s if they have any. I think it’s quite funny hearing folks on our side of the pond make comments “these Haix wildland boots are ‘sick’, Germany must have a solid wildland program.”


#4

Folks, ‘remanents of war’ - UXO - iss quite the problem here in Germany/Europe. For the weekend, I’m involved in the short-term evacuaition of about 18.000 - this time it’s WW2, an American made 1000 lbs. bomb was found and will be defused tomorrow. It’s about the 5th evac in the last couple of years. Will be home - hopefully - late tomorrow. I’m from southern Germany, near Ludwigshafen and it’s famous chemical-plant BASF which was heavily bombed during WW2 - the pros say, we still have ‘some tons’ of UXO left in the soil…
I try to keep up with the news about the wildfire and will write more ASAP. Meanwhile: Wildfiretoday.com and the L.A. Times have short articels online. The fire is about 1000 acres and, for what we are used to, a maior desaster, immensly ressource-consuming. Forward progress seem to be stoped or at least slowed down to nearly nothing - up here it’s reported as ‘countinuing battle’, to me it seems as ‘in mopup-stage’
More to follow!

BTW: Haix… Man, I love these boots! I’m wearing them for two decades now. Would be really interesting to get to know how they perform in wildland. They were made as en EMS-boot, extremly comfortable - and under EMS-conditions - durable like no other.


#5

Weeeehwww, what a weekend…

But, as promised, at least a short introduction into the ‘average German’ situation.
Germany has a couple off differencies and, ehm, little problems with the wildland-situation. Actually, the disasters in Portugal last year seem to encourage a little change and more ‘open ears’ - but…

The German fire departments are, by 98%, volunteer departments - and nearly no ‘wildland program’ exists! At least absolutely nothing on any larger scale. Some counties, especially in eastern Germany, the most wildfire-prone part, have small scale concepts, but that’s it.

I researched a bit: in the 138.000 square miles Germany experiences an annual average of about (depending on weather) 800 to 2500 ‘forest fires’. There is no statistical data about vegetation fires which not involve forests, but… In my home community alone (3 square miles, 11.000 pps) we had in a record year far over a hundred little fires.

After all research and my personal experience, the absolute strenght of our system here is, that almost all fires get caught fast - oftentimes with only the handfull of the first first-responders. Single-digit acres are the normal.

Officially, in 2017, the total of burned forests is at 975 acres with 424 fires. Unofficially there are the many thousand vegetation-fires (on source tells about 8000 in average).

The actual fire in Brandenburg, the wildfire-capitol region of Germany, shows some of the shortcomings: The fire isn’t mapped completely - the count in the media varies between 740 and 990 acres. It took 3000 firefighters (including support-personel, police, army, federal heavy rescue, contractors…), 8 of them were injured.

The other big difference: every fire in ‘good ol’ Germany’ has to be out, completly cold in the full acerage, before beeing declared ‘completly controlled’. The principle of the cold edge stays, but it has to be cold thoughout. Which leads to the next little ‘complications’: Many fire departments are simply not trained or allowed to fell trees - this takes at least some bureaucracy. This simple fact makes access even more complicated… This is followed by layers of duff, 2-3 feet deep and a strict adversion against any ‘chemicals’ - i.g. water-enhancers due to environmental concerns.

Germany misses an ‘hard’ defined system in the Incident Management. There are published and accepted ‘common standards of leadership and guidance’ and some elements of coordination on state and federal level, but nearly no ‘unpolitical’ ‘command and control system’ - starting with the avoidance of such hard terms like ‘command and control’ due to political correctness. At least 95% of the workload sticks with the local/regional IC, what I would compare to an ICS level of 4 to a max of 3. Everything else has to be improvised or goes through public bureaucracy, with politicians involved. :frowning: In some regions this system works well, but not in all.

Technically the fire-departments miss nearly all formal training in wildland-firefighting. There is no provision in the FF-trainings. Everything else is local initiative, experience, small groups or single persons standing up and reaching out. The fire-protection schema in Germany is nearly strictly watersource-tied. Pump and roll is not implemented in almost all engines, tenders are nearly unknown, the trend in the fireservice is to buy ‘Pumper-Engines’ with relatively small tanks (200-400 gallons) but heavily packed with all the other tools of the trade (sometimes, US 'Rescue-Engines remind me of them), extrication equipment and so on - makes for many heavy, 2WD engines. ‘Tanker-Engines’ are spread out, mainly 500-1000 gallons, but these ressources come often from different local authorities and miss the ineroperability-training. Handtools for wildland-firefighting are not so usual… Add the common problem of avialability of volunteer-personel at daytime, employers and declining numbers of volunteers, on this side of the pond exactly the same as on yours.

PPE is the other story in this: In Europe, there is a specified standard for PPE - but this standard (EN 469) doesn’t mention wildland-firefighting. Nearly every region has more or less different opinions about this, but the ‘gold-standard’ seems to be to fight in complete structural turnouts. The standard would allow for an ‘underlayer’ which would bee flame-resistant single layer, but often isn’t complete, many departments only issue the trousers as work-uniform, but not the jackets. So, what you see in the different pictures and videos is often FFs with this trouser and a T-Shirt. Helmets is the next on the list: The European Standard for firefighting demands for high thermal protection and these helmets are the common, relatively heavy, helmets - which are often simply not worn in wildland-firefighting. The existing European standard for wildland-firefighting is simply often not even known

Next chapter: Hoses! The German standard-hoses and principles are: From pump to three-way divider with an 3", from there on 2" (sometimes 1" and 3/4) to nozzles with at least 50 to 100 gpm. There is an brand new german national standard which would require 2" from the pump to divider followed by 1" hose with nozzles at 20-60 gpm, but this standard isn’t widely accepted, bought (cost’s money) and used.
I was on one of the “little” forest-fires here in our region and wonderd ab bit: FFs with SCBA in structural turnouts pulling filled and heavy 3" hoses into the trees in the summerheat . These poor folks were worn out to the ground in less then 20 minutes - and IC was still wondering what went wrong… Even the challange to get enough water on scene fast enough was gruelsome. No pumpkins - which means, every time one tank is down, they had to chance the engine because stoping the waterflow was faster than refilling the tanker from another one… :roll_eyes: It took 3 days for 0,05 acres. OK, but in this special case, the regional equivalent of the EPA was strongly opposed to disturbing the soil with mechanical equipment or even handtools… U see the different enemies? :wink:

All together, it’s fast and very early response, small distances, courageously local FDs/FFs and the perfect improvisation every time. In many areas even a ‘tied link’ to the forresters isn’t even established. Man, have we been lucky in the last couple of years. Now, we are in at least the second year of a drought, gradually there is more initiative, mostly on local or regional levels. As usual, nearly independent from the fire service, there is some movement in prevention, but this is regional / county - and not an coordinated effort.

Enough of this… In my next post I’ll go over the ‘famous’ fire in the state of Brandenburg - and hope to gather more facts. Media coverage isn’t quite good…