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Lack of rain causes drought: Danger of devastating forest fires increases in the Bonn region

Lack of rain causes drought : Danger of devastating forest fires increases in the Bonn region

For weeks there has been no significant precipitation in Bonn and the surrounding area. This has consequences: The ground is unusually dry for the season, the danger of devastating forest fires is increasing. Do the farmers also have an extra worry already?

35 hectares of forest are in flames, 200 firefighters are fighting the devastating fire, houses have to be evacuated: This dramatic situation presented itself on Monday afternoon in Gummersbach in the Oberbergischer Kreis.

And there have already been several forest fires in the Bonn region in recent days and weeks: On Monday evening, a large area of forest burned in Much, also in Windeck, in the Pleiser Wald and in the Kottenforst, in Lohmar several fires occurred, where - as in Gummersbach - the police are investigating. Experts had already issued urgent warnings of forest fires in Bonn and the region at the beginning of April. The forest fire danger index of the German Weather Service currently puts the danger level for the region at 3 to 4 out of 5.

The reason for the current danger of devastating fires is the continuing drought, says Uwe Schölmerich, head of the Rhein-Sieg-Erft regional forestry office, in response to a GA inquiry: "There has been no significant rainfall for more than four weeks now, so the forest floor is very dry. In addition, there is the currently strong easterly wind of around 60 kilometers per hour: "It acts like a bellows and can turn a small fire into a wildfire in no time at all, which then quickly gets completely out of control," explains Schölmerich. Another important hazard factor: the forests in the region are extremely affected by bark beetle infestation, many trees are dead and therefore particularly at risk of fire, and there is a lot of dry material in the forests due to felling.

The expert emphasises that it is therefore particularly important at present to urgently avoid any fire hazard: under no circumstances should smoking be allowed in the forest, and even throwing cigarette butts out of the car window can have fatal consequences: "The roadside may still look nice and green now, but there are dry leaves hidden behind it, and a flying spark can be enough. The same applies to the cosy campfire in the garden, which Schölmerich says should be avoided at present.

Here's what one should do in case of a forest fire

Anyone who discovers a fire in the forest should immediately dial 112 and give as much detail as possible about the location of the fire. This can be helped by the rescue points, which are located on red framed signs in the forest. If there is a small ground fire, you can try to knock it out with the help of green branches, as long as you don't put yourself in danger, Schölmerich advises.

At the moment, the middle layer of soil in the forest is still relatively moist, fortunately due to the precipitation last winter, according to the head of the forestry office. "But cracks are already visible on the surface." He and his colleagues are therefore urgently hoping for rain soon - also because the current drought could have a negative impact on the ongoing conversion process of the forests from spruce to mixed forest: "We are also worried that the small roots of newly planted trees could be dried out. This would be counterproductive, as the conversion would be taking place against the background of progressive climate change with regard to the risk of forest fires: hardwood forests are much less at risk of fire than spruce forests.

Farmers in the Bonn region, on the other hand, do not need to worry at present, says Andrea Hornfischer of the Rheinischer Landwirtschafts-Verband (Rhenish Agricultural Association) in response to a GA inquiry. For the upcoming first grass cut, however, the current sunny and warm period is even favourable, the spokeswoman continues. "And since the water reservoirs in the upper soil layers are currently still well filled, farmers are not currently having any problems in this respect. However, rainfall is very important for maize, says Hornfischer: "It should definitely start raining soon.

However, the longed-for precipitation could still be a long time coming, as a glance at the current weather forecast reveals: The trend forecast by Donnerwetter.de from Bonn meteorologist Karsten Brandt tends to predict even less precipitation for the coming May than the long-term average of only one millimetre per day.

The 14-day forecast based on computer models, whose "hit probability" is around 56 percent according to the meteorologists' assessment, predicts further high-pressure weather until the end of April with temperatures that are somewhat too mild for the season. According to current estimates, there could only be rain after the first weekend in May. As imprecise as the weather forecasts two weeks in advance may be, these are not good prospects for the drought in Bonn and the region.

Original text: Anna Maria Beekes

Translation: Mareike Graepel