Wildfires – How can forests be saved in the climate crisis?
Woodlands are crucial for life. But today more than ever, they’re threatened by devastating blazes. Heat and drought are fueling the flames. In Europe it’s no longer only the southern countries that are worst affected – the north is, too.
The wildfires that scorched Europe in 2022 burned more land area than since records began. Many fire brigades and fire protection services are fine-tuning their responses in line with the new threat. Tobias Hallas is an experienced paramedic from the German city of Karlsruhe, currently serving as a volunteer forest firefighter. He’s a member of @fire, a German NGO specializing in disaster management. The association was originally founded to support deployments in southern Europe during the hot summer months. But now, its knowhow is also coming in useful in Germany.
Much of this knowhow comes from Spain, a nation that’s been grappling with the problem of forest fires for many years. Professional firefighter Manuel Lopes Rodrigues also works here. In his view, combating blazes like these requires more than just modern firefighting techniques. Rodrigues believes that monocultures are also partly to blame. Large areas of forest have been planted with a single type of tree – and one that’s especially fast-burning. With the help of many supporters and the association he founded, he aims to turn forests back into climate-friendly, fire-resistant, mixed-species woodland.
Monocultures are also a problem in Germany. The forests of Brandenburg, for example, are up to 70% pine. In his own startup, engineer Carsten Brinkschulte has developed a kind of early warning system for forest fires. The system uses sensors or ‘digital noses’ to sniff out gases released by fire. The goal is to detect forest fires extremely quickly, before they can spread.