Dhe fire breaks out at noon on July 25th. It rampages for eight days, leaping from treetop to treetop, eating through bone-dry grass, driving people away and killing four hundred pigs. A barrage of fire that quickly changes direction and spreads fear in the Elbe-Elster district of Brandenburg. Sören Diecke says: “I’ve never seen a fire like this.” And Diecke, in his early fifties, tall and strong, has seen and extinguished many fires in his life. He has been with the voluntary fire brigade for 37 years and has been the city fire chief for 18 years. Did he fear for his life? “Yes.”
80 kilometers south-west, in the yard of the Leipzig Anglers’ Association, there are three rubbish bins in the sunshine and they stink. The men from the carcass recycling department picked up the dead fish early in the morning. 330 kilograms. Zander, carp, eel, trout. Matthias Kopp, a jovial man with a soft voice, says: “My heart is bleeding.” The mass fish kill in the Oder has shocked the population all over the country. A great drama superimposed on countless small dramas. Even they, the little dramas, are devastating. As deputy managing director of the Leipzig Anglers’ Association, Kopp sees them every day. He says: “We have water bodies here in the region that have completely dried up for the first time ever. The fish stocks there are a total loss.”
Wolfgang Guckert’s farm is on the outskirts of Mannheim. It is one of the driest and hottest regions in Germany. A look at the Helmholtz Center’s drought monitor shows that the area where Guckert’s farm is located was one of the first areas to turn darker and darker over the months. The darkest shade of red means exceptional drought. At the end of this summer, almost the entire map of Germany will be dark red. Because it’s so dry, Guckert has to irrigate his fields as early as May: grain, potatoes, asparagus. But the water is not enough for all plants. Guckert is forced to make a decision: Which fields do I save, which do I lose? He says: “It hurts to walk across the fields and see how the plants gradually lose their greenery and wither.” Like sick animals slowly dying.
Sören Diecke, Matthias Kopp and Wolfgang Guckert do not know each other, but their stories have a lot to do with each other. They tell of a hot and drought summer that demanded everything from people and nature. A summer of fear, worry and sadness. None of the three men would like to experience such a summer again, but all three know that this wish will probably remain unfulfilled. Heat waves and droughts are increasing, not decreasing, which is why men are worried about the future.
Sören Diecke stops his car and gets out in the middle of the devastated forest. dead silence. Charcoal trunks soar. “Everything burned,” he says, shaking his head. It hurts him to see his homeland like this. Only the wind turbines survived the fire and are doing their job. It will be many years before nature recovers from the disaster, if ever. “It’s all ashes, there’s no more hummus, nothing.” A fire hose commemorates the battle. “The comrades had to leave him behind, they just ran for their lives.”