BERLIN: A fire at a zoo in western Germany in the first minutes of 2020 killed more than 30 animals, including apes, monkeys, bats and birds, authorities said. Police said the fire may have been caused by sky lanterns launched to celebrate the new year.
Several witnesses reported that they had seen the cylindrical paper lanterns with little fires inside flying in the night sky shortly after midnight Wednesday near the Krefeld zoo, Gerd Hoppmann, the city’s head of criminal police told reporters.
“People reported seeing those sky lanterns flying at low altitude near the zoo and then it started burning,” Hoppmann said. Police and firefighters received the first emergency calls at 12:38 a.m.
The zoo near the Dutch border said that the entire ape house burned down and more than 30 animals, including five orangutans, two gorillas, a chimpanzee and several monkeys, as well as fruit bats and birds, were killed.
Only two chimpanzees could be rescued from the flames by firefighters. They suffered burns but are in stable condition, zoo director Wolfgang Dressen said.
Wildfire Today has published many articles about fires caused by sky lanterns. These dangerous devices use burning material to loft a small paper or plastic hot air balloon into the air. The perpetrator has no control over where it lands. Usually the fire goes out before it hits the ground, but not always. Sometimes the envelope catches fire while in flight or it can get blown down to the ground or on the roof of a structure by the wind. Numerous fires have been started by sky lanterns. Even if they don’t ignite a fire, they leave litter on the ground. Metal parts have been picked up by hay balers causing serious problems when fed to livestock. They are banned in most U.S. states and many countries.
UPDATE January 2, 2020. From NBCDFW: “Three women are under investigation in Germany for launching paper sky lanterns for the new year which apparently ignited a devastating fire that killed more than 30 animals at a zoo, officials said Thursday.”
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Robert. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The largest fire in the recorded history of Germany’s state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has been brought under control. The fire started last week and was thought to have been suppressed on Friday, but on Sunday it either flared up again or was reignited by an arsonist, authorities said.
Below is an excerpt from DW.com:
“We have the fire under control now,” said district administrator Stefan Sternberg. The fire has been contained on all sides, he added. Of the 1,200 hectares (2,965 acres) affected, 700 hectares were still burning, Sternburg said on Wednesday morning. The reduction was partially due to the lower temperatures overnight and it was possible some fires could be fanned by higher, daytime temperatures.
The fires had been contained by creating avenues and pathways between wooded areas. There was some concern Wednesday that winds could cause the fires to move over the gaps.With more than 2,000 firefighters and rescue crews working around the clock, the military commander in the state said emergency forces were “going from defense to offense” to extinguish the fire. Armored recovery vehicles were deployed to clear paths through the forest for firefighters, who have had to take extra precautions to avoid the old munitions. Up to eight firefighting helicopters supported the operation.
The fire burned in an area that was bombed heavily during World War II and still has ammunition, mines, grenades and explosives. Since then the military has used the area for training, adding still more unexploded ordnance.
The video below is narrated in German, but non-German speakers can skip through and view interesting scenes of firefighting in Europe.
Firefighters in Germany are having to deal with a unique hazard at a wildfire 30 miles southwest of Berlin — old rusting ammunition left over from World War II. After several detonations, firefighters are not being allowed to enter certain areas. They are using water-dropping helicopters and water cannons on fire engines to slow the fire in the dangerous areas.
The fire has burned approximately 660 acres.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the munitions that are exploding include grenades. Below is an excerpt from their article:
Some of the heaviest fighting in World War II took place in the forests outside Berlin, starting with the battle at the Seelow Heights on April 16, 1945. More than 2.5 million Soviets launched their attack on and around Berlin with some 6,000 tanks and 7,000 warplanes. The area was left littered with ammunition, grenades and other explosives.
Some of the munitions and ordnance in the area could also have been left behind by Soviet troops who occupied and engaged in “war games” with training exercises in the forests around Berlin during the Cold War.
In July firefighters in Germany also had to contend with WWII munitions at a fire near Fichtenwalde.
Hot, dry weather over the last several weeks has led to numerous wildfires in central Europe, especially in Austria and southern Germany, Georg, one of our loyal readers in Germany tells us. Some of the fires are in steep terrain, he said. Thanks Georg!
He sent us some links to sites with photos and descriptions (in German) of recent wildfires. (Thankfully, the photos are in English 😉 )
At this fire there were about 250 firefighters and 50 soldiers.
About 680 firefighters were assigned to a third fire, along with 3 helicopters and 3 Single Engine Air Tankers.
The images below are screen grabs from the video you’ll see farther down.
Google Translate took a stab at translating the description of the above video:
From the fire of pine forest between Wiener Neustadt and Weikersdorf was affected by the fire, said Alexander Nittner by the State Fire Command in Tulln: “The big challenge for the firefighters is that the wind constantly rotates, the approach is extremely difficult and already about 15 acres forest on fire. “by Thursday evening, the fire spread to an area of 20 hectares.