The early morning fire at an ammunition depot in the Grünewald forest, west of Berlin, is still raging out of control as continuous explosions make it impossible for firefighters to reach. Now thrown into the fray is the German armed forces’ explosive ordnance disposal robot Theodor, which is called in to perform an autopsy on the area.
The explosions at the warehouse where Berlin police collect and destroy illegal ammunition and fireworks began at 03:30 and are still going on. According to estimates, there were about 25 tons of explosives in the warehouse. Their destruction stops in June, due to the increased risk of fire in the summer months.
The fire department has planned a safety radius of 1,000 meters around the site and is waiting for the explosions to stop in order to attempt to attack the fire. Even the remote-controlled “Theodore” – which carries an elevating arm equipped with four cameras, which transmit data to the operations center and can pass the 300-meter zone from the site – cannot operate while the explosions continue.
Firefighting operations finally began in the late afternoon, with firefighting forces operating in some areas in the zone between 1,000 and 500 meters. The fire department cannot, however, count on the participation of a military firefighting helicopter, at least not while the forest fire is raging on the German-Czech border, in which large forces are employed.
Since the morning around Grünewald, traffic has been suspended on the highways and railways, while the authorities have warned the residents of the wider area to keep doors and windows closed and ventilation and air conditioning systems off. The mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffay, emphasized, however, that there is no need to evacuate residents. “There are no houses within two kilometers,” he explained.
The operation of the state police’s explosives storage facility, a few kilometers from residential areas, has caused a confrontation between the parties in the past. The Christian Democrats (CDU) parliamentary group in the local parliament today called for it to be closed and another location sought. “This extremely dangerous ‘explosive’ place has no place in a recreation area,” said K.O. of the CDU and suggested starting talks on cooperation with the neighboring state of Brandenburg.