Updated: 8/26/2018 6:19:03 AM
Firefighters in Germany are having to deal with a unique hazard at a wildfire 30 miles southwest of Berlin — old rusting ammunition left over from World War II and after it, during the Soviet occupation. After several detonations, firefighters are not being allowed to enter certain areas. They are using water-dropping helicopters and water cannons on fire engines to slow the fire in the dangerous areas. The fire has burned approximately 660 acres.
Some of the munitions and ordnance in the area could also have been left behind by Soviet troops who occupied and engaged in “war games” with training exercises in the forests around Berlin during the Cold War.
Published Saturday, August 25, 2018
A large forest fire raging 50 kilometres southwest of Berlin continued to spread early Friday after hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes.
The smell of acrid smoke reached as far away as the capital as more than 400 hectares of woodland burned outside the city of Potsdam.
Around 600 people were told to leave their homes in three villages in Brandenburg state late Thursday as about 300 firefighters battled the blaze from the air with water-bombing helicopters.
"Our main goal remains to protect the evacuated areas from the flames," local official Christian Stein told DPA news agency.
"We haven't been able to push back the fire yet but no building has been affected."
Efforts to contain the fire were complicated because the affected terrain is still littered with munitions from World War II, regional emergency response coordinator Michael Knape told public broadcaster RBB.
He called the situation "dramatic", saying there had already been small explosions from ordnance buried in the ground.
An enduring drought and heatwave have left European rural areas particularly vulnerable to wildfires, which wrought devastation in Greece and Sweden earlier this summer.
As the flames came within 100 metres of one of the German villages, residents were told to take only the most essential belongings like medication and documents before fleeing.
Emergency hotline operators received hundreds of calls from residents of Berlin saying they could smell smoke.
"The entire urban area is now affected. The cause is the large fire in Brandenburg," the Berlin fire brigade tweeted.
Germany fire Facts
Affected Area: 1 km.
Alert Level: Yellow