The devastating forest fire on the former Muna site between Dieburg and Münster in the Darmstadt-Dieburg district is under control, but will keep the fire brigades busy for the whole week.
The area affected, around 20 hectares in size, is extremely hot, which is why there is a risk of new fires, according to the fire department.
Those responsible for the fire departments are looking forward to Thursday with suspense because heavy rain has been announced for that day.
They could finally end the mission.
At present, extinguishing water is used to cool day and night, according to the press spokesman for the fire brigades in the Darmstadt-Dieburg district, Werner Flechsenkar, in an interview with the FAZ. During the nights there are around 150 people on the site, and during the day there are even 250 people.
Up to and including Monday, a total of more than 3,000 firefighters had been deployed.
Ammunition still in the ground
The fire, the cause of which is not yet clear, was discovered around 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Because of the wind and the parched ground, the flames spread rapidly.
In no time a huge mushroom of smoke was over the site, which was visible from afar.
Experiences from a fire in the same area in 2019 did not bode well for the local fire brigades.
So the big alarm was raised.
Fire brigades from the surrounding communities, but also from the Spessart, Darmstadt-Dieburg, Odenwald, Bergstrasse and Groß-Gerau districts were called to help.
Above all, tank fire engines were needed to get as much water as possible as quickly as possible.
Farmers filled liquid manure barrels with water, local companies provided tankers and supported the fire departments.
A Bundeswehr helicopter and two police helicopters from Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate helped from the air.
The extinguishing water came from the Sickenhofer See.
On the Muna site, used in the Third Reich for the completion and storage of ammunition and from 1951 by the Americans for similar purposes, there were already dangerous situations during the first fire in 2019 because there are still remains of ammunition in the ground.
The stocks of the camp were blown up by the Allies in 1945.
The fire brigade spokesman reports that the remains of ammunition were even thrown into the tree trunks and treetops.
In the decades that followed, they grew together with the trees.
That's why the situation is so unpredictable.
"Eliminating this danger would be a life's work," estimates Flechsenkar.
Due to the summer heat in the past few weeks, it cannot be ruled out that a piece of ammunition ignited and caused the fire.
But arson is also possible.
In 2019 only four hectares burned, currently there are more than 20 hectares.
Firefighters were helped by the firebreaks cut after the 2019 fire to separate the munitions-laden portions, covering about 20 hectares of the entire site, from a total of 150 hectares of the rest of the site.
Deletion only possible from the paths
Due to the risk of explosion, the fire brigades can almost only extinguish from the forest paths because entering the area is too dangerous.
"Danger to life", district fire inspector Heiko Schecker summarized the situation at the weekend.
This is precisely why extinguishing with helicopters is so important.
Nevertheless: Because of heat stress, smoke poisoning and circulatory problems, about 20 firefighters had to be treated medically and some were taken to the hospital.
The heat and, above all, the operational clothing, in which the firefighters sweat profusely, also led to the great need for helpers, because the actors had to be replaced after a short time.
The Muna site, which, in addition to the main site, also has adjoining parts and measures a total of 280 hectares, is to become an industrial area and parts of it a recreation area according to the ideas of the Münster municipality.
A 1.5-kilometer-long adventure trail and a viewing platform were supposed to be opened this year, which should offer a view of the former bunkers, but also of the herds of bison and wild Przewalski's horses that were settled there.
The animals were not endangered by the fire, emphasized Münster Mayor Joachim Schledt (independent).
In addition to the major fire near Münster, there have also been several smaller forest and wildfires in southern Hesse in the past few days, but they did not cause any major damage.