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Firefighters bring Berlin forest fire under control after munitions explosion

A fire spokesman has said that most of the flames had been extinguished after firefighters in Berlin fought against a huge blaze in the city's Grunewald forest throughout Thursday that was sparked by an explosion at a police munitions warehouse.

Firefighters bring Berlin forest fire under control after munitions explosion
An unmanned fire fighting vehicle is brought to the site of the blaze in Grunewald. Photo: dpa | Christophe Gateau

Large parts of the fire in Berlin’s Grunewald forest have now been extinguished – but reaching the munitions store where the blaze started remains a major problem, according to the Berlin fire department.

During the night, firefighters fought wildfires around the site, spokesman Thomas Kirstein said on Friday.

“The fires have been almost extinguished during the morning,” Kirstein said, adding that only smaller fires now remain on the ground. The fire burned on an area of about 42 hectares – around the size of 100 football pitches. 

The focus of Friday’s work is the site of the explosion, around which police have place a cordon with a radius of 1,000 meters due to the risk of explosions. “We must expect detonations and flying debris to continue,” the fire department said.

According to Kirstein, the goal is to now get a more accurate picture of the situation at the blast site after the fire department, police and the Bundeswehr (army) held a situation briefing in the morning.

An armoured vehicle borrowed from the German army will be used to approach the site and get a first impression from the outer perimeter in order to make an assessment.

In addition, the fire department has requested a firefighting tank from a private company, which is used in areas with explosion hazards. Three robots from Lower Saxony, which can also extinguish flames, are to drive into the exclusion zone toward the blast site. Additional recovery tanks from the Bundeswehr will also be deployed.

Kirstein emphasized that for the fire department this fire is a “very special situation and challenge.” Some 150 firefighters are still in action at the site.

A change in the weather on on Friday morning has brought mixed news. A breeze brought in by a new cooler front could lead the fire to flare up again although some rain is forecast for the evening.

The fire has brought major disruption to Berlin’s transport network, with the main motorway into the city from the south still closed on Friday morning. The S7 line between Grunewald and Wannsee also remained out service on Friday morning. 

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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