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

A huge fire broke out early on Thursday in a popular forest in western Berlin following an explosion in a police munitions storage site, sending plumes of smoke into the skies and setting off intermittent explosions.

Fire in Berlin Grunewald forest
Black smoke rises from the trees in Berlin's Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Beate Schleep

The army sent in a tank aimed at evacuating munitions at the affected storage site as well as remote-controlled de-mining robots, while drones were circling the air to help assess the emergency.

The situation is “extremely extraordinary with munitions,” said Berlin fire brigade spokesman Thomas Kirstein, adding that it was “under control and there was no danger for Berliners.” 

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

The fire was however expected to last for some time, he said.

Firefighters called to the site in the middle of the night were confronted with intermittent blasts that sent debris flying and hindered their work.

They have so far been able to begin tackling only two of the four hotspots across the affected area of 15,000 square metres (161,500 square feet), as explosions at the munitions store were still rocking the area.

More than 140 firefighters were on the scene. No one has been hurt by the fires, which came on a day when a new heatwave hit Germany. 

“So far, there are no injured people and no-one has been affected by an evacuation,” Kirstein said at midday. 

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

The below tweet shows explosions early on Thursday morning in Grunewald. The clip was taken from the roof of the Corbusierhaus in the Westend area by building technician Michael von Rein. 

Officials have built a security cordon to allow firefighters to start working around a kilometre from the ammunition storage zone.

The store holds munitions uncovered by police, but also unexploded World War 2-era ordnance which is regularly dug up during construction works.

Police said they were investigating what set off the fire.

Authorities appealed for the public to avoid the forest, popular with both locals and tourists, as several regional rail lines have been halted.

But authorities said no firefighting choppers were available as they were already in use to calm forest fires in eastern Germany.

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

READ ALSO: German firefighters in ‘intense battle’ with wildfire

Earlier in the day the spokesman for the Berlin fire brigade described the tense conditions.

He said: “The situation is unpredictable. It’s burning uncontrollably in the forest.”

Smoke rises from the fire at the 'Grunewald' forest in Berlin.

Smoke rises from the fire at the ‘Grunewald’ forest in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Disruption to transport

As a result of the ongoing fire in Berlin’s largest forest, regional and S-Bahn services to the west were disrupted on Thursday. 

The S-Bahn line S7 was only running from Berlin to Grunewald, a railway spokesperson told DPA.

Regional trains running between Berlin-Wannsee and Berlin-Friedrichstraße, including the RE1, RE7, RB21 and RB22 were also disrupted. 

It’s currently not clear to what extent long-distance traffic is affected by the fire.

The Avus motorway between Spanischer Allee and Hüttenweg is closed in both directions, as are Kronprinzessinnenweg and Havelchaussee, the Berlin traffic centre said.

Authorities warned the public about the fire on warning apps and called for people to avoid the area. They advised nearby residents to keep windows and doors closed, and said ventilation and air conditioning systems should be turned off.

Heatwave

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.

Scientists say climate change is making heatwaves around the world more frequent and more intense, which increases the risk of fires.

Temperatures are expected to climb to as high as 40C across parts of Germany. In Berlin, they are predicted to reach around 36-38C before it becomes cooler on Friday. 

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Climate change the ‘biggest worry’ for people in Germany

According to a new Forsa poll, fears about climate change are one of the most common sources of worry for Germans - followed by the war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices.

Climate change the 'biggest worry' for people in Germany

According to the opinion survey conducted at the beginning of November, 59 percent of Germans are worried that climate change will have an increasingly frequent and stronger impact on everyday life – for example, through extreme weather events and natural disasters.

Just over half – or 53 percent – were worried that the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine would spread to other countries or even lead to a third world war. Meanwhile, 52 were worried that their own financial situation will be worsened by the high cost of electricity and energy products.

Following the attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines earlier this year, 51 percent of respondents said they feared that cyberattacks could hit other parts of Germany’s critical infrastructure in the future.

Alongside high energy prices, the general cost of living was also a concern for many, with 44 percent saying they worried about their financial health and the soaring cost of groceries.

Finally, 42 percent were kept awake by the prospect that Germany could run out of gas for households and businesses this winter. Germany managed to fill its gas storage facilities to 100 percent ahead of the heating season, but experts have warned that reducing consumption will still be necessary.

READ ALSO: Majority of Germans worried about ‘major war in Europe’

No pandemic fears

The latest survey marks a noticeable shift in public opinion since 2020 and 2021, when the Covid pandemic was still a dominant fear in people’s minds. 

Since then, climate fears, the war in Ukraine, and the cost of living appear have taken over as the biggest topics troubling the population. 

The Forsa poll was commissioned by civil servants’ association DBB, who warned that the public were losing trust in the protective function of the state. 

Ursula Silberbach, who is currently seeking re-election as chair of DBB, expressed alarm at the results.

“I think neither the traffic light coalition nor the opposition have understood how serious the situation really is,” she told DPA.

The union leader, whose organisation represents public service workers, called for a special fund and investment plan to improve the infrastructure and equipment of public service. 

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