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Forest fire rages outside Berlin, hundreds evacuated
Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes as around 600 firefighters battled a blaze in a forest strewn with unexploded ammunition south of Berlin on Friday (August 24) and a pall of acrid smoke hung over the city. Attempts to fight the fire were complicated by the presence of the ammunition thought to date from the Soviet Army's activities in former East Germany. The blaze, about 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Berlin's city limit, spread rapidly overnight to cover an area the size of 500 soccer fields, aided by the parched conditions after one of Europe's hottest summers in living memory. The summer has seen forest fires across much of eastern Germany, but this blaze, so close to its largest city, led authorities to activate emergency alert systems in the early hours of Friday telling Berliners to shut their windows. A Reuters witness noticed the smell of smoke overnight in Berlin's Mitte district, more than 70 km (44 miles) away. Helicopters dropped water on flames near the village of Treuenbrietzen and firefighters sprayed water in a blackened landscape thick with smoke.