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Explosions at Germany's ammunition dump ignite Berlin wildfire

Firefighters battled on Thursday to contain a fire that triggered explosions and burned out of control after it broke out at an ammunitions dump in western Berlin.(Photo by Reuters)

A series of explosions at a bomb disposal site in Germany have caused a massive blaze in one of Berlin’s largest city forests.

Hundreds of firefighters were pressed into service to douse the flames that spread across 1.5 hectares (about 3.7 acres) in the city's Grunewald forest, according to the Berlin fire department and a German news agency.

The site in Grunewald forest is used by German police to store and neutralize old ammunition left over from World War II.

Firefighters faced many challenges to extinguish the blaze, which revived the debate about storing a such large cache of war ammunition in the forest.

“The situation is dangerous. The fire is not under control, the forest is burning uncontrollably," Thomas Kirstein from the Berlin fire department told reporters. 

"We had explosion-like combustions and detonations. Debris was flying through the air, leading to a high danger to the life of the first responders, so they had to withdraw," he hastened to add.

A military tank was sent to the site to unload the ammunition from the storage area along with police weapon disposal units. Some German media outlets said remote control demining robots and drones were also used to control the situation.

According to German authorities, more than 15,000 square meters of Berlin's forests had burned in flames by Thursday afternoon.

Reports said all types of ammunition are stored at this site. Some video images published in cyberspace showed large and numerous explosions caused by the ammunition in these forests.

Due to the widespread fire in eastern Germany, firefighting helicopters could not come to the aid of firefighters in the western Berlin forest. 

The forest of East Germany has been also suffering from massive fire for several days. 

This year, unprecedented heat has spread in the forests of Berlin, compounding the problems for firefighters. The temperature in the forests of Berlin reached more than 37 degrees Celsius on Thursday.

Jan Thomsen from the Department for Environment was quoted as saying that due to the widespread heat wave in Germany, the forests in this part of Berlin have completely dried up.

The main reason for the explosions that sparked the Grunewald forest fire is under investigation, according to reports.

On Wednesday, a similar fire occurred at one of the French military bases in the southwest of the country, which left at least 8 injured.

A factory owned by the Eurenco company in the town of Bergerac specializes in making nitrocellulose, a highly flammable chemical compound, as well as propellants and fuels. 

Eurenco is a major player in the defense sector and develops and manufactures explosive materials for military ammunition. It is a Seveso classified site owing to the use of hazardous materials.

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