From Sweden to New Mexico, those tackling wildfires this season have often had to pump the brakes due to the possibility of moody old munitions.
In Germany last week, firefighters near Fichtenwalde outside of Berlin, had to call in a fire-fighting tank to help get close enough to a blaze thought to be near old WWII-era munitions left over from the epic Soviet drive to capture the city in 1945. “We’ve received some information that there have been a number of detonations,” said Raimund Engel, a representative for the German federal state of Brandenburg’s firefighting authorities.
In Sweden, with the double trouble of unexploded ammunition and difficult terrain encountered in a wildfire on the country’s Älvdalens live-fire range, two Air Force Jas 39 Gripens were called in to sucker punch the center of the blaze with 500-pound GBU-49 Paveway smart bombs.
The idea was that the bombs’ resulting pressure wave would snuff out the fire by depriving it of oxygen. “Our preliminary assessment right now is that this had a good effect,” said fire team leader Johan Szymanski in a statement.
While in the UK, fire crews at a military range near Northumberland have been stamping out flames caused by “sparks from bullets” for the past two weeks, in the U.S. the Army had to suspend live-fire training at Fort Hood in Texas due to an ongoing wildfire for which a cause has not been determined.
Similarly, last month firefighters at the expansive White Sands Missile Range had to be safe in some areas over the possibility of encountering unexploded ordnance. White Sands has been used for bombing and gunnery practice as well as rocket and missile research going back to 1942 with the Trinity Site, the location of the first nuclear detonation, part of the 3,200 sq mi complex.
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