Yesterday at shortly after midnight, I was sitting at my PC trying to write, when suddenly the fire sirens went off. Since I live in a semi-rural suburb, we still have a volunteer fire brigade that is assembled via sirens installed on various rooftops around town (though they also have pagers and probably other alarm systems as well). These sirens are really, really loud, but not exactly uncommon and most of the time they don’t announce anything more dramatic than a burning trashcan.
A few minutes later I heard more sirens, this time of the fire trucks. Again, this was only to be expected. Though the trucks did pass fairly close by my house. Then, barely a minute later, there were more sirens and more fire trucks, suggesting that the volunteer fire brigades of neighbouring villages had been alerted as well. So whatever was going on, it was clearly a bigger fire.
By now I got curious and looked out of every first floor window, trying to find out what was going on. But though I could make out the approximate direction in which the fire trucks were moving (there were steadily more of them, too, at least several villages worth), there were no first floor windows in that direction. So I unlocked the front door and went outside to take a look. I wasn’t the only one who had that idea either, since the lights came on in several neighbour houses.
Outside, I could still hear the sirens and – more worryingly – something that sounded like distant explosions. I could also make out what looked like a smoke plume in the otherwise clear nightsky, which worried me a tad.
Since I couldn’t make out anything more, I went back indoors to check the websites and Twitter feeds of various local news organisations. Alas, it was half past midnight on a holiday weekend, so pretty much everybody was asleep. Nobody else seemed to know anything either.
Meanwhile, there were still more fire engines arriving. The sirens went off twice more to rouse even the last firefighter from their sleep.
I went downstairs again and this time I could make out a distinct fireglow as well as a smoke plume in the nightsky. I also heard more distant explosions and I could smell smoke.
By now I was pretty worried, so I checked Twitter again. At 1 AM I finally found this message on the stream of a news agency specializing in disaster footage.
+++ AKTUELL +++ Großbrand in Brinkum Zur Stunde steht das Gelände eines Recyclinghofes in Brinkum lichterloh in… http://t.co/XjJIDOfvoV
— NonstopNews (@NonstopNewsTeam) May 24, 2015
Turned out that a recycling facility approx. three kilometres from my home was on fire. More than two hundred fifty firefighters from the entire region did their best to stop the fire – they even drafted one of the big airfield fire engines from Bremen Airport (which was closed for the night anyway, so it’s not as if they will miss it). The fireglow and smoke plume could allegedly still be seen from twenty kilometres away. Luckily, the recycling facility is located inside an industrial park, so there were no homes in danger, though a nearby animal shelter had to be evacuated. No casualties either, thank goodness, even a cat that had been on the premises managed to get away. The fire is still burning, too, and the smoke hindered traffic on the adjacent highway throughout the day.
There is a video, too:
I actually know the recycling facility, since I’ve been in the industrial park before, e.g. to buy screws at a hardware wholesaler right next door. The company has a good reputation as far as I know.
What is more, the massive concrete walls around the facility, which likely saved adjacent buildings and businesses from the fire last night, actually featured on the original cover for The Other Side of the Curtain, standing in for the Berlin Wall.