Berlin forest fire triggered by WWII ammunition dump blasts

USA & World

Berlin forest fire triggered by WWII ammunition dump blasts

A large fire has broken out in one of Berlin’s largest city forests, triggered by several explosions at a bomb disposal site inside the forest on one of the hottest days of the year so far.

More than 100 firefighters were battling the blaze that has spread across 1.5 hectares (about 3.7 acres) in the German capital’s Grunewald forest on Thursday, the Berlin fire department and a German news agency reported.

The fire was spreading quickly and massive explosions could be heard from a site within the forest where old ammunition from World War II, fireworks and explosive ordnance are stored and controlled explosions are carried out.

“The situation is dangerous,” Thomas Kirstein from the Berlin fire department told reporters.

“The fire is not under control, the forest is burning uncontrollably.”

Kirstein said it was not clear what had triggered the first explosions at the ammunition dump earlier on Thursday.

He called on residents to stay away from the forest.

Authorities in Berlin frequently carry out bomb disposal operations due to explosive ordnance still being discovered from World War II.

Due to the danger from flying debris and the threat of further explosions, the fire department said it had not yet begun to systematically extinguish the forest fire as emergency services had to keep a distance of one kilometre (more than half a mile) from the flames.

Firefighters deployed to the area were dousing the forest outside the exclusion zone with water to prevent the blaze from spreading further.

Plans are also under way to fly a drone over the ammunition dump to record aerial images in order to better judge the situation.

“The plan is to get a new situation assessment from the blast site – initially from the air,” Kirstein said, adding that fire services hoped to access the area with armoured vehicles later in the day.

Berlin authorities called for additional support to help extinguish the flames, including special forces from the German army.

Water cannon and special evacuation tanks were also due on the scene.

A commuter train service to Berlin’s west was partially interrupted and one of the city’s most important highways, the Avus, was closed because of the blaze.

Homes were not directly threatened by the flames but the fire department warned that the fire could further spread due to the dry conditions in the forest and the exceptional heat that was expected on Thursday with temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) forecast for Berlin.