Devastating fire

Destroyed homes sealed off from onlookers

Aufräumarbeiten am Gleis nach dem Brand in Siegburg.

Repair work is being carried out at the railroad tracks after the fire in Siegburg.

Siegburg. A security service is controlling access to the neighborhood devastated by a fire in Siegburg just days ago. Meanwhile, residents whose homes were destroyed in the fire were allowed to return to see what remained.

After the devastating blaze in Siegburg, residents were allowed to return and see what was left of their homes.  But they were only allowed in with escorts from the fire department.  Burkard Rick, spokesperson for the Siegburg police said there was a danger of the homes collapsing. 

According to Rick, the investigation of both the area damaged by fire and the surrounding area is completed.  “We have gathered the information we need and are now evaluating it in cooperation with the State Office of Criminal Investigation,” he told GA.  And they are still looking for witnesses who might have further information about the fire.  Statements from witnesses up to now have not brought much insight, and the cause of the fire is still unknown.  

What is certain is that the dry weather and heat contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.  Police also surmise that a passing train could have stirred up the fire, which could have caused it to expand as well. 

City installs security protection

On Thursday, calm returned to the area devastated by fire in the Siegburg neighborhood.  The street where the fire occurred is called “Im Urnenfeld” and it has now been sealed off by authorities. Those who do not have permission to be there are not allowed to enter. Spokesperson Jan Gerull from the City of Siegburg said it was a security measure to protect people from getting hurt.  

Kim and Guido Düster live nearby but their home was not damaged in the fire.  They welcome the street closing because they are irritated by people who come to Siegburg just to see the fire damage.  They can tell the people are not from the area because their license plates give them away. 

Still, Guido Düster says they cannot yet think about things returning to normal.  “I still can’t get over what happened here,” he said.  He witnessed the fire and says the fire in the scrub had nearly been put out when an ICE train went past and fanned the flames.  “I don’t understand why the rail traffic had not been stopped earlier.”

Fire chief cites two crucial factors

Responding to a GA inquiry, Deutsche Bahn (German railways) and the fire department said that the closure of the tracks began immediately.  The fire department was at the place where the fire broke out and notified Deutsche Bahn within minutes. A Bahn spokesperson said the train conductor also reported the fire immediately. 

County fire department chief Dirk Engstenberg said the two crucial factors in the fire were the dry vegetation and the hillside to Brückberg being steep - both allowing the fire to spread rapidly. He said these were the deciding factors. "Within ten minutes it spread to the residential buildings - that's extreme." It was impossible to stop the spread of fire any faster under these conditions.

At first, water pressure was a problem.  Several fire hydrants were tapped at the same time and the pressure went down.  Engstenberg said the infrastructure of the water supply was not designed for fighting several burning houses at once. They had to obtain other sources of water in addition to those directly on location.  

Repair work at the tracks

In the meantime, Deutsche Bahn continues to work towards restoring full operations. The ICE has been running since Wednesday, and regional traffic will pick up again on Friday. Affected are the lines RE 9, S 12 and S 19.  In the fire, the overhead line was damaged for a length of about 350 meters. There is also considerable damage to cables for control and safety. Numerous trees damaged by the fire are also being removed as a precaution, according to the railways. 

Orig. text: Dominik Pieper, Marcel Dörsing

Translation: ck