Berlin fires may have been caused by arson | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.08.2018
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Berlin fires may have been caused by arson

A major fire burning through a forested area just outside of Berlin has been brought under control. Authorities say the cause of the blaze is still unclear but "all indications" suggest it could be a case of arson.

German authorities on Saturday said they had made progress fighting a major forest fire outside the capital Berlin, eventually lifting an evacuation order for two villages in the evening.

The fire near the town of Treuenbrietzen in the state of Brandenburg started Thursday afternoon and quickly spread through pine forests that have been dried out due to drought and an unusually hot summer.

Read more: Climate change sets the world on fire

In the evening, Brandenburg state Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Schröter told reporters that "the situation has significantly improved."

Around 140 people who had been evacuated from the villages of Klausdorf and Tiefenbrunnen were allowed to return to their homes on Saturday evening, police said. The residents of a third evacuated village, Frohnsdorf, were allowed to return home on Friday. 

Some 600 firefighters are battling the flames, which took hold of about 400 hectares (100 acres) of sparsely populated woodland after starting some 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the edge of Berlin.

Six firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze since it broke out on Thursday, authorities told news agency dpa.

Arson suspected

The cause of the fire was initially unclear, but authorities announced on Friday evening that "all indications" now suggest that the fire could have been caused by arson.

Raimund Engel, an official tasked with handling forest fires on behalf of Brandenburg said the wind had dropped making it easier to contain the fire.

"The fire is currently not spreading further," Engel said. "I hope the wind will not start up again," he added.

Read more: Forest SOS: Earth's green lungs disappear

A fire department spokesman said the situation was unlikely to improve in the next few days either, with Brandenburg firefighters predicting it will take several days to completely extinguish the large blaze.

Residents in nearby Berlin have been told to keep their windows and doors shut as smoke from the fire continues to blow towards the city.

Unexploded munitions from World War II have complicated firefighting efforts with the fire causing some of them to go off.

law/aw (AFP, AP, dpa)

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