A huge fire in a metal technology company in Berlin-Lichterfelde caused a huge cloud of smoke to form over the west of the capital on Friday. The fire brigade went into large-scale operations and used a mobile phone app to warn people about possible health risks. At least one school was closed. Copper cyanide and sulfuric acid were stored in the hall, and hydrogen cyanide may have formed during the fire, said a fire department spokesman. According to the fire department, substances hazardous to health were only discovered in the air in the immediate vicinity of the fire site – not in the cloud of smoke that drifted towards the city center.

When asked, the Diehl Metall company, to which the plant belongs, also stated that, according to their findings, no health-endangering exposure had been measured. The chemicals mentioned were only kept in small quantities in the factory, said spokesman Michael Nitz. According to him, it is an electroplating company that produces, among other things, car parts. The Diehl Group is a large arms company that also supplies weapons to Ukraine. This sparked speculation in the media and social networks. However, Nitz said that no military equipment was produced at the Berlin factory. The police did not yet have any information about the cause of the fire. According to the fire department, there were no injuries.

Fire in the technical room

The fire in the company broke out in the morning. A technical room on the first floor of a factory building was burning “to its full extent,” said a fire department spokesman. All people could have left the place independently. The building could no longer be entered while the fire was being extinguished.

The population was alerted via a warning app and asked to close the windows. A warning message popped up on cell phones on Friday afternoon with a shrill sound, saying there was “extreme danger.” “After evaluating the weather conditions and the corresponding wind direction, the smoke gases move from the site in a northerly direction,” said the fire department.

Entire building burns

In the hours that followed, the fire spread throughout the entire building. The multi-story building was eventually completely engulfed in flames. A fire department spokesman said the fire had “burned through” from the first floor to the roof. Parts of the building had collapsed.

The Berlin fire brigade was on site with 180 emergency services and also alerted the airport fire brigade and the Bayer Group’s factory fire brigade with chemical specialists. The fire was not under control until late afternoon. However, the cloud of smoke had become smaller and no external flames were visible, the fire department said.

Flames shoot up into the sky

Parents of students at the Steglitz Fichtenberg-Gymnasium received an email saying that classes had been stopped and the students had been sent home. However, the Abitur will continue with the windows closed. When asked, the Senate Education Administration said that the school inspectorate had immediately sent a circular to the affected schools because of the major fire, advising them to keep the windows closed. Students should not go outdoors. “The schools reacted quickly and acted depending on the local situation,” said a spokesman.

According to the observations of a dpa reporter, the streets around the scene of the fire were closed. The flames shot up into the sky. There was an acrid smell in the air. There was black smoke above the building. A neighboring supermarket was also completely enveloped in smoke. The surrounding area is a mixture of commercial areas, allotments, residential areas and shopping centers.

Smoke moves north

According to eyewitnesses, the smoke moved north. The fire department published a map of the affected areas, including parts of Spandau, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Reinickendorf. People should avoid the affected area and drive around as far as possible. Even if there is no cloud of smoke to be seen, windows and doors should remain closed and ventilation and air conditioning systems should be switched off, it said.

In the immediate vicinity of the fire, the police made announcements with a megaphone, calling for people to leave the streets, go into their homes and keep their windows closed. According to the fire department, pollutant levels were measured regularly in the city and operational area.

According to Per Kleist, permanent representative of the state fire director, the technical relief organization was also on site that evening. “We are currently using the THW to prevent contaminated fire-fighting water and fire-fighting foam from entering the sewage system or the Teltow Canal, which is not far away,” said Kleist in an RBB special broadcast.