OroraTech & Katastrophenschutz Havelland: Keeping the Forests of Brandenburg Safe from Space

Brandenburg, the fifth largest German federal state by area, is Germany’s California when it comes to wildfires. Unfortunately, this northeastern German state has seen multiple wildfires this summer, which led the Civil Protection Agency in Havelland district (Katastrophenschutz Havelland – in German language) to look into more innovative ways to tackle the problem. One of the most damaging fires in Germany this season happened near Beelitz town in Potsdam-Mittelmark in June. The fire was detected by OroraTech’s solution two hours before conventional methods detected it.

Brandenburg’s Forest Heritage

As of 2000, 40% of Brandenburg is covered with beautiful mixed tree natural forests. During dry summers, a special danger comes from coniferous trees that have a large amount of sap in their branches. This sap burns very quickly and supports fast-moving wildfires. These types of trees also tend to grow much closer together, making it even harder to contain the wildfire.

"Within the next 2 years, we will double the fire detection and monitoring capabilities of existing satellites."​

 

Besides the rich forest heritage, Brandenburg state has also several former military training areas, where multiple unexploded munitions are stored. This armament is highly inflammable and dangerous, especially during long dry summer days.

When one item gets on fire and explodes, it is extremely unsafe for the firefighters to get to the blaze itself and fight it directly from the land due to a high risk of a massive explosion occurring. Thus, Havelland authorities are often forced to wait until the rain helps to contain the fire naturally, or they need to identify the precise location of the fire to send their aircraft directly to the epicenter. This makes the land in Brandenburg, not just a high-risk area for forest fires, but also a hazardous place for firefighters. 

How Brandenburg Manages Natural Disasters

The Civil Protection Agency in Havelland district is part of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK). BBK is an executive agency of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community in Germany that is responsible for matters related to civil protection and disaster assistance.

In the cases of major incidents, like wildfires, for example, each district’s civil protection agency works very closely together to manage the situation. Thus, when in June 2022 a large forest fire emerged in the Potsdam-Mittelmark district, the Havelland team rushed to help their neighbors to contain the blaze faster.

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Early fire detection near Treuenbrietzen town in Potsdam-Mittelmark, left side - topographic image of the blaze, right side - image received by Sentinel-2 with a depiction of the wind direction, June 2022

Detecting Wildfires From Space

Innovation and new technologies are key focuses for the The Civil Protection Agency in Havelland district. Therefore, the organization is actively looking for new ways to improve its work to help its community and environment. Expecting a dry and hot summer in 2022, the agency was researching efficient options on how to prevent wildfires from spreading too quickly. The search led them to OroraTech and the global satellite-based wildfire detection and monitoring service.

First Results and Future Opportunities

By the end of June, a few disastrous blazes broke out in the neighboring district near Beelitz town in Potsdam-Mittelmark, and OroraTech’s platform was put to use. The system detected the fire two hours before the first official notification was received. Considering the proximity of the hotspots to urban infrastructure and cities, these two hours were crucial for containing the wildfire. In the future, this early detection will help to engage the fires early on and minimize the risk of uncontrolled spreading. 

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OroraTech Wildfire Service detected the fire clusters of the two big wildfires near Beelitz and Treuenbrietzen in Brandenburg two hours before official notices were received, collected through Sentinel-2 imagery, June 2022

The platform provides the full overview of the Havelland district, which covers 171,700 ha, with the precise location of the wildfire detected. The Civil Protection Agency sees the added value of OroraTech’s solution in the 24/7 monitoring service with the automatic early notifications and features that support risk assessment, propagation modeling and damage analysis optimizing the whole wildfire management process.  

“It has been great to work with Mr Robert Jonas and the whole team,” says Konstantin Pieper, Business Development Manager of OroraTech. “The Civil Protection Agency in Havelland district is one of our first customers in Germany and we are pleased to see our system put to good use. We had the privilege of meeting and training Mr Jonas and his highly dedicated team and look forward to a long-term collaboration.” 

Record Year of Burnt Area in Europe​

According to ​​The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS),  2022 has been a record year of burnt area in Europe since 2006. By the end of July,  just over 515,000 hectares of land had been burnt across the EU, this is four times the average record since 2006.

Climate change will increase chances of wildfires also in the future but human actions can help. Therefore OroraTech is working on expanding its service in Germany beyond the Havelland district to the state and national level.

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