Smoke billows over Grunewald forest in Berlin after a large fire broke out in the popular forest following an explosion in a police munitions storage site on August 4, 2022. - The affected area of 15,000 square metres (161,500 square feet) includes a storage site for police ammunition. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP)

In the discussion about a possible relocation of the police blast site in Berlin’s Grunewald, Brandenburg’s Interior Minister Michael Stübgen (CDU) was open to cooperation.

“We have good cooperation with Saxony and are of course also open to Berlin wanting to participate in our explosive ordnance disposal procedures in the future,” he said when asked by the Tagesspiegel. “I hold the joint meetings between the Berlin Senate and the Brandenburg state government for the right place for such an exchange. Berlin would have to clarify what their specific needs are and then put the topic on the agenda.”

Berlin’s governing mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) questioned the location of the explosive site in Grunewald on Thursday and brought cooperation with Brandenburg into play. “We have to think about how we will deal with this explosive site in the future and whether the city of Berlin is the right place for it. I will also talk to Dietmar Woidke about how to start a cooperation in the metropolitan area,” said Giffey.

Berlin’s Senator for the Environment and Climate Protection Bettina Jarasch (Greens) wrote on Twitter on Thursday afternoon that “we will talk about the location in the Senate”.

A spokesman for the Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior said on Friday that there had already been talks in the early 2000s about possible cooperation in the disposal of explosive ordnance between Brandenburg and Berlin. “In the end, however, these did not lead to a cooperation. As far as we know, the state of Berlin decided instead to have its own explosive ordnance disposal.”

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However, Brandenburg and Berlin are in constant contact with explosive ordnance disposal services, “particularly in connection with training and further education measures, which also include measures at the blasting sites”.

According to the information, Brandenburg has “an ammunition disassembly plant in Kummersdorf-Gut, to which a detonation site is also connected”. According to the Interior Ministry, up to 50 tons of net explosive mass can be stored there.

Berlin’s CDU head of state, Kai Wegner, also called for negotiations with Brandenburg on a joint explosive site on Thursday. The right consequences must be drawn from the fire in Grunewald on and around the Berlin police blast site, Wegner said in the rbb “Abendschau”.

“Such a blast site does not belong in a local recreation area,” said the CDU state and parliamentary group leader. There have been many complaints from local residents about it. “Negotiations with Brandenburg have to be conducted now. I hope that we can come to common results,” said Wegner.

“The crucial thing is that you can’t say to Brandenburg: We’ll bring you our bombs. That won’t work,” said the CDU politician. “Berlin also has to bear the costs, you have to share that.” In the future, cooperation will be necessary when it comes to explosives and bomb finds.

Berlin’s police chief was open to moving the explosive site on Friday morning. However, the Berlin police still have daily operations where explosive ordnance has to be removed, said Barbara Slowik on Friday on the RBB information radio. Because transporting old World War II bombs is very dangerous, a nearby blasting site is still needed.

With a view of the blasting site in the middle of the popular local recreation area, Slowik said: “Currently, this blasting site is the only permittable facility on Berlin property with 80,000 square meters, far away from residential buildings, which was very useful for the fire brigade yesterday.” Brandenburg also has hardly any resources for one common detonation site in the Berlin area. “So far we haven’t found a way to do that. Now there will be new talks.”

The Berlin FDP warned against hastily closing the explosive site in Grunewald since 1950 and moving it to Brandenburg. “Before hasty discussions about the location of the blasting site, firefighting, a precise analysis of the causes and an inventory of alternatives must be in place,” said interior politician Björn Jotzo on Friday. “There are good reasons against, but also for a blast site in Berlin.”

There are two to three ammunition finds a day in the capital. Short distances make sense for World War II ammunition, and Brandenburg does not currently have the required storage capacity. “The facility in Grunewald is remote and relatively safe – even if yesterday’s security measures apparently partially failed.”

Jotzo demanded that Berlin should only make a decision about giving up the blasting site when the cause of the fire and the effects of alternative locations are known. “It shouldn’t be an emotional decision after an accident, but one based on valid information, a renewed risk analysis and, above all, considering possible alternatives.”

The Berlin CDU politicians Frank Balzer, Stephan Standfuss and Sandra Khalatbari called for the explosive site to be closed on Thursday. The parliamentary group had already applied for this in 2004. “This highly hazardous explosive location has no place in a recreational area,” they said. “No further dangers should emanate from this location.” Instead of the blasting site in the middle of the forest, the blasting site in Kummersdorf/Gut in Brandenburg should be used in the future.

The police detonation site in Berlin’s Grunewald has been there since 1950. Controlled demolitions are carried out there twice a year for several days, a police spokesman said on Thursday. There have been repeated attempts to look for other locations. As the police announced on Twitter, there are no alternative areas of use in Berlin or they cannot be approved.