Parts of the forest are on fire – the fire brigade has great problems extinguishing it. / Blast site in Grunewald burns – more explosions
Shortly after five o’clock the warning apps ring, reporting “extreme danger”: A fire in Berlin-Nikolassee has triggered a large-scale operation by the Berlin fire brigade. As she confirmed on Twitter, over 100 forces are deployed on the Kronprinzessinnenweg. “There will be explosions,” it says. A Bundeswehr ordnance robot is now also being used. The fire brigade can only act defensively at the moment.
The reason: An unintentional explosion at a blasting site set fire to a storage facility for Berlin police’s ammunition found and also the Grunewald. According to the fire department, explosive devices and fireworks are stored at the police detonation site.
Police spokesman: Cause determination after firefighting
At noon, a spokesman for the Berlin police spoke for the first time about the fire: The cause will only be determined once the fire has been fought. There is currently no information on this: “External influence cannot be ruled out,” said police spokesman Thilo Cablitz.
The location of the blast site in the middle of the Grunewald had already been discussed in the past, but no other suitable area had been found so far. “You don’t want to drive 80 kilometers with a World War II bomb,” said police spokesman Thilo Cablitz.
This is the only place where explosives found or seized in Berlin can be destroyed in a controlled manner. As a safety measure against fires, explosives are sprinkled on the square in a targeted manner.
Even shortly after eleven o’clock, popping noises can be heard again and again, as reported by a t-online reporter on site. “It must have been at the blast site, there’s nothing else,” says fire department spokesman James Klein. “Compared to this morning, however, the volume of the detonations was smaller – this morning the windows of the cars shook here, one kilometer away.”
Giffey breaks vacation to visit town
Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) sees the safety of the residents around Grunewald as guaranteed. “What is important to me is that the safety of Berliners is not endangered and that is the case here,” she said on Thursday at the site of the operation.
There are no toxic objects that could pose a hazard. “In that respect, I can calm you down for now.” The safety radius of around one kilometer was also drawn with a view to the residents.
Spranger thanked the emergency services of the fire brigade, police and army. Already last autumn, the forest area was freed from easily combustible materials such as undergrowth or dead wood, so that fires could not spread so easily. The Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) interrupted her vacation to get an idea of the situation on site in the afternoon.
Explosions and Heat: Firefighters can only work from a distance
“As a firefighter, you probably only have such a situation once in your life,” says fire department spokesman Thomas Kirstein on site to t-online. “The fire continues to spread uncontrollably. That worries us a lot.”
At the scene of the fire, the emergency services are in a difficult position. “Fragments of debris flew through the air, and our emergency services were at great risk of death,” said Kirstein. “They had to withdraw.” Therefore, it cannot be extinguished at the moment – the danger for the emergency services is too great.
There is also another problem: “The heat plays an enormous role in this operation. We have to replace the emergency services at regular intervals so that they are not overloaded,” says Thomas Kirstein from the Berlin fire brigade. At 10 a.m. it was already 29 degrees in Berlin-Nikolassee, and the temperature is expected to rise to 36 degrees during the day.
Weapons robots and armored vehicles from the Bundeswehr arrive
The aim is now to start a fire-fighting attack from a distance. A picture of the situation was created from the air with the help of drones, among other things. According to the fire brigade, three to four embers have been identified from the air so far.
One tries to get closer to the fire with each new situation assessment during the day. A Bundeswehr armored clearing vehicle and a robot will soon approach the detonation site and give the emergency services a better overview from the ground.
As Jürgen Karl Uchtmann, Brigadier General of the Bundeswehr, commander of the Berlin State Command, explains, the armored recovery vehicle is intended to create firebreaks for the fire brigade. The so-called Teodor is a remote-controlled vehicle with cameras: The robot should drive into the restricted zone and enable a more precise picture of the situation.
“We have surrounded the fire, that’s all we can do right now”
Kirstein: “At the moment hoses are being laid and forest paths are being watered. We are preparing to fight the forest fire as soon as it exceeds the 1,000 meter radius”. The radius could last beyond noon, possibly even into the evening, it said.
Water is also taken from the Krumme Lanke for this purpose. Two sources of fire in the restricted radius in the forest are sprinkled with water cannons from the police and resources from the fire brigade from forest paths – but the distance is not enough to extinguish. “We have surrounded the fire, that’s all we can do right now,” says fire department spokesman James Klein on site.
“It will be a very challenging operation. The fire brigade doesn’t like doing that, just watching a fire spread uncontrollably,” says Kirstein.
Explosion on police square – cause still unclear
According to a police spokesman, it is still completely unclear how the explosion could have happened. Found ammunition is stored on the square and defused in a controlled manner by the explosive ordnance disposal service of the Berlin police.
“The place has certain precautionary measures for fires,” fire department spokesman Kirstein told t-online. The police are now investigating to what extent alarm systems have failed.