Now the grass has grown over it

Christoph riegert makes his way through the hoof-high grass, finds a clear spot and unpacks his knife. "If you dig a little here, you stumble on coal", he says and grinds a piece between his fingers. Coal on the former tank rebuilding site in klosterforst? "These are remnants of the forest fire we had here last year", explains the deputy forestry manager of the bavarian state forestry in arnstein, to whose area the monastery forest belongs. At that time, about 1.5 hectares of the clearing, which the forest is currently reclaiming after military use, burned down completely – at least on the surface. The young trees and a hunter's perch survived the fire burnt to the ground. "Today, the dust has already settled – in the truest sense of the word."
Not every forest fire ends so smoothly. In such events, a large contingent of foresters, firefighters, rescue workers and, in this case, farmers, often jets out. "They have used their barrels to bring water to the site and have drained the edges to prevent the fire from spreading", reports riegert. An immense effort to prevent the fire from spreading," says kober.
That's why peter aichmuller from the kitzingen forestry office is in active contact with the government of lower franconia in heiben summers, which orders air observations on weekends if necessary – as has happened in the past weeks. For the district of kitzingen acts as a kind of "lighthouse" in lower franconia. "We are a wine-growing region where it is particularly warm and dry," he says, explains aichmuller. The dry sandy soil further favors surface fires.

But even in our country, the high risk of forest fires in the past week has been banished for the time being by the recent rains. "The situation has eased", informs aichmuller. So there will be no observation flights this weekend.

In hot, dry weather, aerial observation helps to detect surface fires before they can do much damage. Whereas such fires, in which mainly grass burns or smolders and tree trunks burn, are the most frequent, but the least dangerous, according to riegert.
If ground fires develop, the situation looks more critical: "tree trunks burn into the ground, so that the humus begins to smolder down to a depth of 20 centimeters." That makes the location work more difficult. Moreover, it is difficult to shade the expansion. "It's like being a hermit: you don't know exactly where the fire is, because you can't see it." In order to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading, the fire department has to dig up the ground, and after extinguishing the fire, fire watchers have to keep an eye on the fire for a long time to make sure it is really out.
"The third type of forest fires are crown fires", riegert further informs. In extremely dry forests, a fire may spread from tree to tree across the canopy. "But that hardly ever happens here – although the klosterforst, for example, with its high proportion of needles, is definitely a dry forest." This is the focus of risk in the district of kitzingen as far as forest fires are concerned. In the cool steigerwald area, on the other hand, there are almost no fires. Forest restructuring, through which the bavarian state forestry agency aims to create a mixed forest structure with a higher proportion of deciduous trees for ecological and economic reasons, will therefore also serve to prevent forest fires in the future.
The monastery forest is also very dangerous because it is easy to reach for people seeking recreation. The most common cause of fire is unknown. "But mostly it's the people behind it", woman riegert. Shards that function like burning lenses, discarded cigarettes, flying sparks from a barbecue or hot vehicles that set fire to dry grass – all of these can be causes of fire. With the known causes, negligence is the rule – and so is human influence. Intentional arson, on the other hand, is extremely rare.

Therefore, the warm afternoon hours are particularly dangerous, especially on weekends: many "forest visitors", dry grass and litter on the ground, high temperatures and the coniferous trees, which let a lot of light and warmth onto the ground.

This weekend, however, neither firemen nor walkers need worry too much. "It still never hurts to exercise caution.", warns christoph riegert. The ban on smoking in the forest still applies, because the surface wet can dry out again quickly.


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