By Brian P. Kazmierzak
Last month I had the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the world's largest fire trade show, Interschutz 2015 in Hannover, Germany as well as attend fire-behavior training at the Frankfurt (Germany) Fire Department training center. This second half of this trip was part of the F.I.R.E. — Knowledge to Practice research project.
Interschutz had more than 1,500 exhibitors from 51 nations, and 90 of those were American companies. During the six-day show, 157,000 visitors came through the gates to trek the 1.14 million feet of exhibition space.
By far the largest exhibitor was Rosenbauer, which had over 60 pieces of apparatus on display from all over the world.
The one thing that was very noticeable was how much equipment is really carried by European fire apparatus. Almost every engine there was what we in the United States would consider a rescue engine, fully equipped for both firefighting and rescue work.
Additionally none of these rigs had any pre-connected lines bigger than a booster line. All of the hose was carried in metal racks and all of it used Storz-style sexless fittings. Additionally, none of the rigs carried any large-diameter hose.
The aerials (or turntables in some cases they were called) were very unique and most were nothing like a U.S. ladder truck. The most glaring difference was the two-person cabs and lack of ground ladders.
In Europe, ladder companies are used very differently than in the United States. Some of this is due to six-person staffing on the engines, but it is also because the aerial ladders are just that — aerials used for rescue or elevated streams, that's basically it.
The largest aerial was a 341-foot Bronto Skylift; 20 exist in the world, most are in Asia. I had the opportunity to go up in the basket of this rig. This was an amazing experience — words cannot describe the feelings when you are at that height in a tiny little basket. We were higher than the 300-foot fair tower and its spire they were selling rides to the top on.
Additionally there were several aerials on site that featured "elevators" running up the back of the ladder to the basket at the top. One of these was 220 feet high, almost double that of a U.S. aerial.
Specialty apparatus were in abundance as well. The heavy rescues all had large crane booms, and some had dumpsters. Another unique piece of apparatus was the fire department street sweeper, something that in the U.S. is completely unheard of.
There were also numerous extra-large pumps and hose systems for industrial firefighting applications. Other specialty apparatus present were outfitted so they could respond via rail due to the immense train system that covers Europe. Technology was also very prevalent — including several drones, one with a catapult style launcher.
The amount of extinguishing agent, sprinkler, fire extinguisher and fire alarm suppliers was overwhelming as it filled almost an entire building. Another building was devoted to PPE. It was very noticeable that the European PPE was much lighter than that in the U.S.
After three days in Hannover, it was on to the Frankfurt Am Main Fire Rescue Training Center, a brand new, 25 million-euro training center for the F.I.R.E. — Knowledge to Practice Project work for the next six days. This training center is amazing and is located on the site of Frankfurt Fire Station 1, which is a 67-bay firehouse. Yes, 67 bays!
While Frankfurt's training center includes many different props such as subway station, fully enclosed streetscape and several simulators, the most eye opening was the live fire-behavior training we did in their completely enclosed burn building.
Since the training center is located in the middle of a neighbor, the 15-cargo-container prop is actually a building in a building. The outer building gathers all the smoke produced and an afterburner system burns the smoke and fire byproducts so the air released is clean.
While many different scenarios were done, the learning experience for me was the fact that everything we hear about the European fire service doing only fog attack and it being from the exterior is completely false — fire attack is very much so interior, and straight streams are used for attacking the fire. Fog is only used in short bursts for gas cooling.
The other take away is the funny-looking helmets (as many Americans think of them) actually are quite comfortable and provide greater protection than what we are used to. These more modern fighter pilot style helmets that actually allowed the face piece to clip in directly on the side of the helmet vs. wearing a spider style head harness.
I doubt I will ever get the chance again to get to go back to Intershutz, but I recommend it to anyone in the fire service; it is a must to go and see how the rest of the world fights fire and addresses rescue issues. While it is so very different in a lot of ways (for the good), there are still an awful lot of similarities.
About the author
Brian P. Kazmierzak, EFO, CTO, is the chief of training for the Penn Township Fire Department in Mishawaka, Ind. He has a bachelor's degree in fire service administration from Southern Illinois University and serves as the director of operations for www.FireFighterCloseCalls.com and the webmaster for www.ModernFireBehavior.com. Brian was the recipient of the 2006 F.O.O.L.S. International Dana Hannon Instructor of the Year Award, the 2008 Indiana Fire Chiefs Training Officer of the Year Award Recipient and the 2011 ISFSI/FDIC George D. Post Fire Instructor of the Year. In addition, Brian completed the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program in 2006, and is a CPSE credentialed chief training officer who serves as a director at-large for the ISFSI and is on the UL FSRI PPV Research Study Panel. Brian has been a student of the fire service since 1991.