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Top cop: don’t park fancy ride in Kreuzberg

Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch has sparked a storm of criticism by warning the owners of fancy cars not to park overnight in the city's Kreuzberg district after a rash of auto arson.

Top cop: don't park fancy ride in Kreuzberg
A torched Mercedes Benz in Kreuzberg in May, 2007. Photo: DPA

Glietsch, 61, gave an interview to the taz newspaper last Friday, in which he said he wouldn’t recommend Porsche drivers park in Kreuzberg.

In the last year, dozens of luxury cars have been set alight in the traditionally left-wing district – Mercedes and BMW’s among the favourites.

Over the weekend politicians called Glietsch’s statement a “declaration of bankruptcy,” and secretary general for the Christian Democrats in Berlin, Frank Henkel, called it a “capitulation” to the left-wing extremists, according to Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel on Monday.

Berlin doesn’t have any so-called “no-go areas,” but the police have managed “no-drive areas,” Free Democratic Party (FDP) party spokesman for Berlin parliament interior issues Björn Jotzo told the paper.

Klaus Schubert, spokesperson for the Berlin police department told The Local on Monday that in light of the some 113 fire attacks in the last year, which damaged a total of 129 cars, Glietsch’s comment was purely practical.

“The statement was simply a reference to the situation,” Schubert said. “The police are doing all they can, but you wouldn’t put something precious on a street where you know this happens.”

But some have said that the problem is due to a lack of police personnel in the area. The GdP police union said the comment was symptomatic of a “dramatic personnel reduction,” rather than a failure to act, Der Tagesspiegel reported.

Police spokesperson Schubert told The Local there is adequate police coverage in the area and that it is more important to get to the political motivation behind the attacks.

“The police chief does not think it’s necessary to put more officers in,” he said. “These attacks happen quickly and it’s easy to flee undetected, so it doesn’t matter how many police are there if they aren’t on the scene at the moment it happens.”

WILDFIRES

‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

An "unprecedented" fire broke out on Thursday around a German police munitions storage site in a Berlin forest. Here's how events unfolded and the reaction.

'Unprecedented': How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin's Grunewald forest

What happened?

Emergency services were called out after explosions were heard in the ‘Grunewald’ forest in western Berlin in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

It then emerged that a fire had broken out near a police munitions storage site, all on one of the hottest days of the year when temperatures were forecast to reach around 38C in the German capital. 

As explosions continued at the site, sending debris flying into the air, firefighters weren’t initially able to get near the flames to extinguish it. Emergency services set up a 1,000-metre safety zone around the area.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Berliner Feuerwehr

Later on Thursday afternoon, Berlin fire brigade spokesman Thomas Kirstein said the situation was “under control and there was no danger for Berliners” but that the fire was expected to last for some time.

No one has been hurt by the fires. Around 250 emergency workers were deployed to the site.

READ ALSO: Blasts ring out as forest fire rages in Berlin’s Grunewald

How was the fire being tackled?

The German army (Bundeswehr) was called in. They sent a tank aimed at evacuating munitions at the affected storage site as well as remote-controlled de-mining robots, while drones circled the air to assess the emergency.

Water cannons were also deployed around the safety zone to prevent the fire from spreading.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey interrupted her holiday to visit the scene, calling the events “unprecedented in the post-war history of Berlin”.

Giffey advised people in Berlin to close their windows but said the danger was minimal as there were no residential buildings within a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) radius and so no need to issue evacuation orders.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“It would be much more difficult if there were residential buildings nearby,” she said.

What caused the blaze?

That’s still unclear. Police say they are investigating what started the fire exactly. 

The store in question holds munitions uncovered by police, but also unexploded World War II-era ordnance which is regularly dug up during construction works.

Giffey said local authorities would “have to think about how to deal with this munitions site in the future and whether such a place is the right one in Berlin”.

Is Grunewald a popular site?

Very much so. The sprawling forest on the edge of Berlin is home to lots of hiking trails and is even near some popular lakes, such as the Krumme Lanke. It’s also near the Wannsee and Havel river. 

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin's Grunewald

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin’s Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Grafik | dpa-infografik GmbH

Authorities appealed for the public to avoid the forest, which is regularly visited by both locals and tourists.

Deutsche Bahn said regional and long-distance transport was disrupted due to the blaze.

A part of the Avus motorway between Spanischer Allee and Hüttenweg was also closed in both directions, as well as Kronprinzessinnenweg and Havelchaussee, according to the Berlin traffic centre.

Aren’t forest fires and strong heat causing problems elsewhere?

Yes. Authorities on Thursday said no firefighting choppers were available as they were already in use to calm forest fires in eastern Germany.

However, they also said the 1,000-metre safety zone applied to the air, so there was a limit to how useful it would be to drop water on the fire from above.

The German capital is rarely hit by forest fires, even though its 29,000 hectares of forests make it one of the greenest cities in the world.

Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, as well as parts of eastern Germany have for days been battling forest fires.

Parts of Germany were also recently hit by forest fires during heatwaves this summer. 

Temperatures were expected to climb as high as 40C across parts of Germany on Thursday. However, it is set to cool down on Friday and thunderstorms are set to sweep in from the west.

With reporting by AFP’s David COURBET

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