Berlin: Grunewald Forest Fire Not Extinguished Yet, Avus Remains Closed

Five days ago, explosions at a bomb and ammunition disposal site at Grunewald forest caused a major forest fire. Since, the Berlin Fire Department has been fighting the flames. The operation is ongoing.

Berlin, August 9th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — The biggest and longest operation the Berlin Fire Department has had since the war is ongoing. Some headway has been made, but the firefighters still cannot enter the ammunition disposal site at Grunewald forest because the fire has not been extinguished completely. The temperatures there could still trigger explosions, according to the Berlin Fire Department.

Firefighters Exhausted

On Monday, Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey went to Grunewald again to check the situation. She was briefed by Fire Chief Karsten Homrighhausen and thanked all firefighters who are involved in the operation as well as their supporters. The police are part of the efforts too. Since Thursday, fire trucks, helicopters, tanks, robots and water cannons have been used to extinguish flames, cut aisles into the forest and monitor the situation.

As Fire Department spokesman Jens-Peter Wilke told the RBB radio and television network this morning, the number of firefighters on site was decreased temporarily, also because of exhaustion among his colleagues. During the night, patrols had been on duty. Wilke said they had been forced to extinguish several fires n the process. The number of firefighters involved in the efforts was decreased temporarily. At first, 400 men and women participated. Right now, there are 250.

No Entry

For days, an area around the ammunition site, with a radius of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles), had been off limits even to firefighters because of ongoing explosions. It was now decreased, meaning the Fire Department can get closer to the location. At the bomb and ammunition disposal site, all kinds of explosives had been stored, destroyed and detonated in a controlled way for many decades, until uncontrolled explosions occurred on Thursday of last week. It is unclear what caused them.

Train tracks at Grunewald, Berlin’s largest forest, were reopened on Sunday, but the Avus city highway, a major traffic artery in the area, is still blocked to all traffic. The danger is just too big. As Jens-Peter Wilke said in the RBB interview, it could take days until the operation at Grunewald can be completed. The forest is burning in uninhabited areas. No residents had to be evacuated. But the forest is closed. Little signs the Fire Department put up at several entrances to the forest say there was no entry due to the danger of explosions.

WWII Ammunition

For now, the firefighters on site are trying to cool down the ammunition and bomb disposal site using robots, in order to decrease the probability of more explosions. Since 1945, hundreds of unexploded WWII bombs have been found at construction sites in and around Berlin. It happens all the time. Explosives of this kind that can be transported, are usually taken there before they are defused or detonated on purpose.

War ammunition and confiscated firecrackers were stored at the Grunewald location as well. It is unclear whether the disposal site will be moved after the fire. Berlin does not really have an alternative location suitable for this kind of site. Talks with neighboring Brandenburg are underway.

BerlinFire Department