Since 2018, the Federal Police has been deploying helicopters much more frequently to extinguish fires in forest fires. In 2019, 15 helicopters were on the road for a total of 372 flight hours. This emerges from a response of the Federal Government to a request from the Greens in the Bundestag, which is available to the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.
According to this, Federal Police officers moved to eleven different extinguishing missions against forest fires and wildfires on a total of 33 days this year. In 2018, the Federal Police extinguished 28 days - with five helicopters for a total of 161 flight hours. In the four years before, there had been no more than two helicopter missions.
Responsible for the fight against forest fires are the respective federal states. In emergencies, however, the Federal Police is moving away from "national administrative assistance requests" and helping local forces. However, according to the report, the Federal Government now writes: "The Federal Police Air Service is not in a position to provide vegetation firefighting capacities without thereby generating significant restrictions on the performance of original tasks."
National Forest Fire Task Force planned
In addition, the air service of the Federal Police since 2017 has not benefited from job growth and new posts at the security authority. The Federal Ministry of the Interior refers to a working group of the Federal Government and the Länder, which is now discussing "more capacity in the fight against vegetation fires".
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) had announced a national forest fire task force this summer. According to this report, in the case of catastrophic events, this should provide personnel and equipment throughout Germany that goes beyond the typical equipment of local fire brigades and can be deployed quickly if necessary. These included armored forest fire-fighting vehicles, fire fighting tanks and additional fire-fighting helicopters.
The interior expert of the Greens in the Bundestag, Irene Mihalic, expressed loud Funke media group criticism of the handling of the Federal Government with the risk of forest fires. "The devastating forest fires bring the Federal Police air service to the limit and beyond."