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Warning of toxic smoke after fire breaks out at Berlin factory

The Local Germany
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Warning of toxic smoke after fire breaks out at Berlin factory
Firefighters battle the blaze on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

More than 180 firefighters wearing protective suits were on Friday tackling a major blaze at a metal technology firm in Berlin's Lichterfelde area as authorities warned of toxic smoke.

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The blaze broke out in the first floor of metal technology factory ‘Diehl Metal Applications’ on the Stichkanal in Lichterfelde, south-west Berlin around 10:30 am.

On Friday afternoon, a fire brigade spokesperson said an area of over 2,000 square metres was on fire in the four-storey building.

As of 5 pm, the fire was reportedly still not under control.

According to the spokesman, the fire had spread to the roof, with parts of the building collapsing.

As the company also stores and processes chemicals in various quantities, there are concerns over harmful fumes in the smoke. 

"We can confirm that chemicals are also burning in the building," said the fire service. "Sulphuric acid and copper cyanide were stored there. There is a risk of hydrogen cyanide forming and rising into the air with the smoke."

Hydrogen cyanide is a highly toxic substance.

The Berlin state government said that residents "in the affected areas of the toxic fumes caused by the fire" were warned through the NINA warning app at midday.

People walk in the area near the fire in Berlin on Friday. Residents have been urged to stay inside and keep their windows closed.

People walk in the area near the fire in Berlin on Friday. Residents have been urged to stay inside and keep their windows closed. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

The Berlin fire department also said on X that people in a large area of Berlin and the outskirts, shown on the map in this tweet, should keep their windows and doors closed, turn off air conditioning and avoid smoky areas. People have also been asked to avoid the area. It includes a large part of the Grunewald forest. 

In the immediate vicinity, hazardous substances had been measured. According to a fire and rescue spokesperson, no injuries have been reported. 

A spokesman for Diehl Metall, to which the plant belongs, said on request that the chemicals mentioned were also only kept in small quantities at the plant.

According to the Diehl spokesman, the location is used for electroplating parts for the automotive industry. The Diehl Group is a large arms company; however, no armaments were produced at the Berlin plant, Nitz said.

Emergency response authorities requested the help of the in-house fire brigade from the firm Bayer, which is familiar with fighting against chemical fires, Berlin newspaper Tagesspeigel reported. 

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Which areas are most affected?

Pupils and teachers from nearby schools have been sent home as a precaution, while several shops around the site have closed. 

On Friday afternoon, a warning message popped up on many mobile phones with a shrill sound, according to which there is "extreme danger".

"After evaluating the weather conditions and the corresponding wind direction, the flue gases move from the scene of the incident in a northerly direction," the fire department told the German Press Agency (DPA).

Flames seen at the fire in Berlin's Lichterfelde on Friday.

Flames seen at the fire in Berlin's Lichterfelde on Friday. Shops around the area closed. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

According to the fire department spokesman, however, it was not initially clear at what distance the smoke could still be hazardous to health.

Parents of students at the Fichtenberg-Gymnasium in Steglitz received an e-mail stating that classes had been stopped and all students had been sent home. However, the local Abitur or end of school leaving exams continued with the windows closed.

Surrounding roads were closed while flames leapt into the sky, according to a DPA reporter on site.

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A neighbouring supermarket was completely enveloped in white smoke. The surrounding area is a mixture of commercial area, allotments, housing estates and shopping centre. According to eyewitnesses, the smoke appeared to be heading north.

The fire department published a map on which the affected areas are marked. Parts of Spandau, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Reinickendorf, among others, can be seen. People should avoid the affected area and drive around it as much as possible, the fire department suggested. Even if no smoke is visible, windows and doors should remain closed and ventilation and air conditioning systems should be switched off, it said.

In the immediate vicinity of the fire, the police made announcements with a megaphone and called on people to leave the streets, go home and keep windows closed.

The cause of the fire has not yet been established. 

With reporting by DPA, Paul Krantz and Rachel Loxton.

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Sheila 2024/05/03 17:32
Maybe Local should do an article on why German news apps are so pathetic. You are the ONLY news app that has reported this fire. I have ARD, ZDF, DW, FAZ free, and Badische, Neueste Nachrichten which I pay for. NOTHING! Listening to Deutschland Rundfunk, so far NOTHING. Cyanide is important, ya think? Great job, Local—go auto renew!

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