Waldbrand (Bodenfeuer) im Bundesland Brandenburg, Sommer 2003. Wikipedia Commons License
06 Jun 2023

2023 Wildfire near ammunition depot in Germany: Several explosions heard


Several detonations were heard on Sunday  and Monday coming from the ammunition which is stored on a former army training ground in the affected forested Brandenburg area.   

The situation with the forest fire near Jüterbog south of Berlin is still tense. The head of the municipal regulatory office, Christiane Lindner-Klopsch, announced on Tuesday that the fire had not yet reached the protective strip. However, this is expected during the course of the day.

According to ZDF.de, it  is not possible to say exactly how large the affected area is at the moment. The area has been largely unchanged since Monday evening. But there is no reason to give the all-clear. "The situation is still tense, but under control," reported Lindner-Klopsch.

Strong winds have recently intensified the wildfire surrounding a German military training site that is known to contain large amounts of ammunition. The fire had been already been burning for days and authorities have tried to prevent it from reaching surrounding villages.

The wind has caused the fire to double in size, officials said Monday.

Firefighters have cleared large strips of land to contain the fire but are avoiding the training grounds itself, where several explosions were heard Monday, according to officials. 

Weeks of dry weather have increased the risk of wildfires in eastern Germany, with some regions on the second-highest alert level, according to FireEngineering.com.


Protective strip to protect houses from fire

Strong wind had fanned the forest fire near Jüterbog, which is located south of Berlin. Allegedly, around 326 hectares were affected on Monday evening – that is equivalent to an area the size of around 457 socker fields. However, there are still unaffected areas

The protective strip in the southern area was widened on Monday to prevent towns and villages from being engulfed in flames from a former military training area, the head of the public order office reported on Monday.


Lots of ammo in the ground
The former military training area is loaded with ammunition. There were several ammunition detonations on the burned area on Sunday evening and Monday morning, she said.

According to  ZDF.de, no other federal state in Germany is as heavily contaminated with explosives as Brandenburg. The contaminated ammunition depots have allegedly been decaying  away in the ground for decades, and still remain dangerous. Phosphorus ammunition, for example, is considered highly flammable. With extensive pine forests, relatively little rainfall and dry sandy soil, the risk of forest fires in Brandenburg is particularly high. Hundreds of hectares of forest already  burned last summer.


Geo-ecologist: We have to get used to wildfires

The geo-ecologist Kirsten Thonicke from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research believes that a protective strip is the right approach.

According to Thonicke, the vegetation is stressed by long periods of drought in the past and is therefore susceptible to fires. This is a major challenge for the fire departments:

"If we don't get any rain worth mentioning in the next few days and weeks, which will dampen everything up a bit, then things won't look so good", she says.

Photo Credit: Waldbrand (Bodenfeuer) im Bundesland Brandenburg, Sommer 2003. Wikipedia Commons License