June 10 (Bloomberg) — A forest fire at a former Soviet military base in eastern Germany has burned 160 hectares (395 acres) in an area contaminated with unexploded munitions which are hampering firefighting efforts, a government spokesman said.
The blaze at Altes Lager, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Berlin, is being fought by 185 firefighters and 3 helicopters equipped with water tanks, said Geert Piorkowski, deputy spokesman for Brandenburg state’s interior ministry.
“This area is very contaminated with munitions and the firefighters can’t enter it and are only able to fight the fire from roads and from the air,” he said in telephone interview.
Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin and has over 1 million hectares of woods, is one of Europe’s regions most threatened by forest fires, the state environment ministry said in a statement. There has been little rain over the past month and 75 previous fires this year have scorched 50 hectares in the state.
Piorkowski said the Altes Lager fire has mainly burned scrub, heath and small pine trees and hasn’t spread into mature forests. “There are no injuries reported and no villages are threatened,” he said, adding that it would take several days for firefighters to bring the blaze under control.
Hundreds of thousands of troops from the former Soviet Union and later Russia were stationed in former East Germany during the Cold War and withdrawn in 1994. Many of the huge tank and air force training areas they left behind are heavily tainted with unexploded ordnance, fuel and other toxic substances, state officials say.
The military base at Altes Lager was set up by the Prussian government in 1870, used by Nazis from 1935 to 1945 and after World War II by Soviet forces, according to the region’s Web site.