Pastor worried about the future in fire areas

DOMRADIO.DE: In Brandenburg, an area of ​​8.5 square kilometers, roughly 1,200 football fields, caught fire. 350 emergency services are fighting a fire near Riehfeld in the Elbe-Elster region. The Colsa region is the most affected. Among other things, the pig breeding facility was set on fire. Reverend Pichler, you live in Riehfeld. How close are the flames to your church or parsonage?

Reverend Andreas Bechler (Protestant Church in Central Germany): It is a little far, about one kilometer. It also always depends on the wind source. This makes things very confusing and threatening as well.

DOMRADIO.DE: You can now hear firefighting helicopters overhead almost every minute. You will see how the situation changes. Is there an immediate danger from the source of the fire to your church buildings in the area or to church property?

Pichler: In principle, this cannot be excluded, because even for emergency services, such a rapid change of wind can, of course, suddenly create completely new and unpredictable situations. We are glad that the emergency services are doing their job here and we wish them a good hand and may God bless that everything is going well.

DOMRADIO.DE: Fires also broke out in Germany last summer. However, this year you feel particularly close. How do you feel when forest fires reach your village?

The situation in the forest fire regions of Brandenburg and Saxony remains very critical – as of the afternoon of July 26, the fires were still out of control. In Brandenburg, a fire broke out in a forest and meadow area of ​​​​8.5 square kilometers – almost 1,200 football fields in size. Potsdam Interior Minister Michael Stubgen (CDU) got an idea of ​​the situation at the site. In the event of a forest fire in Saxon Switzerland National Park, the affected area set off a disaster alarm.

Pichler: You sleep more restless. With us, the firefighters on the other side of the street, if alerted, we’re practically straight in bed. This actually happens quite often. There was an alarm almost every night or sometimes in the afternoon. This is concerning because my wife is also a farmer and has animals outside in the fields. You are always worried about the possibility of a fire that could endanger animals.

DOMRADIO.DE: People had to be evacuated due to the fires, and since then some have been allowed to go home. How is it updated? Will more people be evacuated?

Pichler: We only learn everything from the media. It is important for people to really educate themselves. We also have a live bar from the Elbe-Elster area, which is where the information comes from. You can also call emergency services. There is concern about the ability to return. The family, which found shelter with neighbours, had to be evacuated. I spoke to the woman. She said they were fine, but they wanted to come back. But it doesn’t look like that yet.

DOMRADIO.DE: You as an ecclesiastical community can’t do much in this situation, at most you can offer something like shelter. There are chaplains on duty. How can you best help?

Pichler: On the other hand, it is important that this assistance is well coordinated among the rescue services. We have an emergency care team on duty here. They were also on site during the evacuation to provide support again. Of course, we as a diocese are always the point of contact when there are problems. If people are in a panic or if there is tension and arguments, then we can help. But our experience is that the emergency services on site are very well located, they control everything and also deal well with people.

DOMRADIO.DE: What thoughts run through your mind when you think of our make-up and the risks of climate change? You are also the head of the church forest community in Herzberg and have now burned 11 hectares of your church forest. Among them are several small trees they planted after the recent storm damage.

Pichler: This has a huge impact. Then you think: How will it be here? How can you cultivate the land here in our rural area? What else grows there? Wildfires can destroy all of this relatively quickly. This affects me a lot when I think of the farmers there. Seeing that thousands of animals are dying, as in a seed breeding facility, is also very disturbing.

Interviewed by Katharina Jaeger.

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