Forest fire north of Berlin brought under control

The cause of the blaze remains unclear. After an extended drought, the risk of forest fires has spiked in Germany.

A large forest fire erupted 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the German capital early Monday morning. The blaze spread across an area of roughly 2.5 hectares (6 acres) before being brought under control by the fire brigade.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Firefighters work to extinguish the blaze in the early hours of the morning

After the fire was reported by police at 3 a.m. (0100 UTC), nearly 100 firefighters were dispatched to a wooded area near the city of Oranienburg, in northern Brandenburg, the state that surrounds Berlin.

By morning, 50 emergency personnel were still on-site extinguishing the flames.

Brandenburg is the state with the highest risk of forest fires in Germany because of its particularly sandy soil and its high proportion of pine forests. In 2018 Brandenburg was hit with a high number of forest fires thanks to an extended drought.

Read more: German forest fire risk spikes amid high temperatures, drought

Forest fire alerts have been raised across Germany after a drier-than-average winter, with precipitation dropping from an average of 210 liters per square meter (5.2 gallons per square foot) to 180 liters in recent years.

Brandenburg forest fires force evacuation

Villages evacuated

The fires began on Thursday and soon threatened three villages in the state of Brandenburg, outside Berlin. The towns of Klausdorf and Tiefenbrunnen were evacuated, with locals either fleeing to the homes of friends and relatives or being housed in local shelters. Residents in the village of Frohnsdorf were allowed to return to their homes Friday afternoon.

Brandenburg forest fires force evacuation

Scorching heat

The unusually hot summer and drought in Germany meant the fire quickly spread through dried-out pine forests. Many areas have had to enforce campfire and grilling bans.

Brandenburg forest fires force evacuation

Seen for miles

Reports suggested that smoke from the blaze could be seen as far away as 10 kilometers (around 6 miles). Social media users in Berlin said on Friday that they woke up to the sight of smoke in the distance.

Brandenburg forest fires force evacuation

Danger unabated?

By Saturday, authorities said the fire had affected some 400 hectares of land and Berlin residents were told to keep their windows and doors closed to keep out smoke.The fire set off some undetonated World War II and Soviet munitions dumped in the ground, hampering firefighting efforts.

Brandenburg forest fires force evacuation

Low winds help

More than 500 people have had to flee the fires. Authorities said they had made some progress containing the fire with low winds coming to their aid, but the situation was unlikely to improve over the next few days.

Brandenburg forest fires force evacuation

Arson suspected

"We've had forest fires before, but never of this magnitude," said Mayor Michael Knappe of Treuenbrietzen, another town in the area. The cause of the fire was initially unclear, but authorities announced that "all indications" now suggest the fire could have been caused by arson.

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