Residents of three villages outside Berlin have been forced to evacuate to escape several forest fires threatening to burn out of control.
The blaze, about 50-km southeast of Berlin, spread rapidly overnight to cover an area the size of 500 football fields. Several hundred firefighters were deployed to fight the flames which spread rapidly due to recent dry conditions.
Extinguishing the fire has proved to be a dangerous task for firefighters, as the forest floor still has leftover ammunition thought to date from the Soviet Army’s activities in former East Germany, from World War II.
The fire has already caused old hand grenades and cartridges to detonate.
As of Friday morning, it still continues to burn over an area of 400-hectares, reports the Berliner Zeitung.
Residents of nearby villages of Frohnsdorf, Klausdorf und Tiefenbrunnen were told to leave and only bring essential medication and papers with them, a local police spokesman said.
The effects of the fire were felt in Berlin, as smoke drifted over the capital on Friday morning. Whole streets are smoky, fire department spokesman told the Berliner Zeitung.
Neighbourhoods from the south to the centre are affected with smoke, said the fire department on Twitter. They advised residents to keep windows and doors closed.
“I have huge respect for the firefighters who are out there right now, risking their lives. We know there is ammunition lying around in the forest,” local politician Guenther Baaske told Reuters, adding that some explosions had been heard.
Helicopters dropped water on flames near the village of Treuenbrietzen and a Reuters photographer saw firefighters spraying water in a blackened landscape thick with smoke.
Flames came within 100 metres of homes in some places. Authorities said 540 people had to leave their homes, with many forced into emergency accommodation.
In many places, flames reached as high as the forest canopy in the ordinarily swampy, heavily-wooded region that surrounds Berlin.
Isolated showers were predicted for parts of Berlin and Brandenburg, but meteorologists could not predict whether the rain would fall on burning areas.