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Berlin LHF MAN
Fire Engine Photos
No: 35472   Contributor: Chris Stone   Year: 2000   Manufacturer: MAN   Country: Germany
Berlin LHF MAN

A MAN LHF 16/12 (Rescue WrL, with a 1600 liter water tank, 1600 liter per min pump and a 120 liter foam tank) of the Berlin Fire & Rescue service seen at Interschutz 2000 in Augsburg. There was clear perspex over the open locker stowage.
Picture added on 20 July 2013 at 12:48
add commentComments:
The 16/12 is a lighter and less expensive version of the 20/16 which was pioneered by the Berlin Fire Service. The 20/16 is issued to all of the 35 full-time stations and the 16/12 is being introduced progressively into the numerous additional volunteer stations.

The volunteers get far fewer calls than the full time stations, so the replacement cycle for their apparatus is quite long - as much as 30 years or even longer. But they too are getting more and more calls for road accidents and rescue incidents, and the older pumpers had no significant rescue equipment. These smaller LHF (rescue pumps) are gradually filling this gap in coverage. The goal is that eventually every volunteer station in Berlin will have a rescue pumper, in addition to all of the full-time stations.

Added by Rob Johnson on 20 July 2013.
Rob, I appreciate the info you give us on this site.

Added by Les Davis on 20 July 2013.
You are very welcome. Personally, I have lived in several different places and visited fire stations in more than twenty countries. So I find it interesting to see how different fire services approach the challenges of providing fire protection and rescue capabilities.

It is also interesting to see how innovations are introduced in various places and how well they seem to work (or not!).

What is obvious is that there is still a lot of tradition and conservatism in fire services everywhere - and nobody seems to have got all the answers yet. So it appears there will always be something new to learn. Thanks for the compliment!

Added by Rob Johnson on 20 July 2013.
Rob,

I really appreciate your depth and breadth of knowledge of fire service practices in many countries.

Perhaps you can explain the system in Germany, which I haven't seen elsewhere (well, one anomaly in the US that I'll get to shortly).

You say Berlin has 35 full-time and many volunteer stations. How are these distributed around the city? How is it decided whether a given station is professional or volunteer? And how is the dispatching done?

Here in the States, we have mixed departments in smaller cities, not big ones like Berlin! In these mixed departments, generally each station has some professionals and some volunteers. The pro's might work the main shift, with volunteers on call at night. The station might have a pro driver on duty at night, and the volunteers take their own cars and meet the trucks at the fireground. I guess the volunteers learn the fire location by pager or (these days) text message.

The only US example I can think of with a combination of pro and volunteer stations is Montgomery County, Maryland. This is in the suburbs of Washington DC; it used to be quite rural and most of the county is still served by VFDs. However, Bethesda, a more urban area just across the DC line, has a 3 (or maybe 4?) station fully-paid department.

When I moved away from there in 2006 (to Portland), the county was in the process of trying to create a unified county-wide fire & rescue service.

Naturally the chiefs of the VFDs were not happy about losing power and influence (and budget) to a central fire commissioner in Rockville, the county seat ("capital"). I guess it's going OK now, because they do seem to be buying larger numbers of standard vehicles.

With a population of nearly a million, and far more urbanized development, this county looks more and more like a big city. In fact, its population is 50% greater than DC itself.

Well, now I'm really curious about Berln and other German cities and their mix of "berufs" and "freiwillige" stations.

Added by Mike Feldman on 22 July 2013.
The volunteer stations in most German cities were founded long before there were any paid firefighters, so they are distributed among the communities which gradually came together and were incorporated into the city.

As full time fire services evolved, the volunteers mainly remained in their original stations, unlike the older cities here, where they were mostly incorporated in to the full time service. They were and remain highly respected and very social organizations, doing a lot of social and community work, with a strong father to son membership tradition.

I have not looked at the website recently, but I remember that Berlin has around fifty volunteer stations, and about half of these are in the outskirts, where they are either the sole first response, or they respond with a unit from the nearest full time station. The rest respond to second alarms or higher, and man their trucks to provide cover when nearby full time stations are vacated due to attendance at incidents.

In addition, the volunteers are called out en masse to help at any kind of major incident. These include large fires, flooding, accidents, building collapse, explosions, etc.....

All volunteer departments have apparatus which is designed expressly for their use. These are generally less complex and less expensive, and include special purpose units as well as pumpers.

Another difference is that cities with less than 100, 000 population are not required to have a full time fire service. So many smaller cities have numerous volunteer stations with literally hundreds of volunteers and dozens of apparatus. This reminds me of when I lived in Nassau County Long Island. The population of 1.4 million was protected by exclusively volunteer fire departments with over 190 stations - almost on every street corner!

Added by Rob Johnson on 22 July 2013.
Hope it stays like that in Berlin.

I was born and raised in New Jersey, in the US. When I was a teen, I became a member of my borough's volunteer fire dept. My borough was 3 square miles, @2500 people, and we averaged 40 volunteers, with a paid driver. Teenagers, starting at 16, could join, and doing everything the adults do, except drive an appliance, and go into a burning building. During the school year, we'd get called out of school 2-3 times. Daytime manning for the adults was usually 5 men. Most commuted out of town for work during the week day. For a structure fire, mutual aid would respond in the day. Most towns and townships around us were volunteer as well.

I was on a combination fire department for a year in Florida. They had transitioned from a mostly volunteer with some career members, to mostly career with just 2 volunteers, myself and an old timer. I found out later, that the then fire chief only "tolerated" volunteers, because the prior ones used their homes as collateral to buy the fire appliances. He really preferred career firefighters.

After serving in the US Navy, I moved to the metro Atlanta area. Down here in Georgia, it was 180 out from NJ. Mostly career departments, with a few combinations. With no disrespect intended towards career firefighters, it sucked. Partly because my job didn't allow me the time to be a volunteer, but also because volunteer and combination departments are on the way out down here. The city I live in disbanded their volunteers about 15 years ago, another uses part time professional firefighters, when they're off duty from their departments. I can't afford to buy a home where the two closest departments are that still have volunteers. And where I can, I'm looking at an hour commute to work one way.

So I feel a bit of envy, having been around the world, seeing many cities that still have volunteer fire companies operating side by side with career companies. I hope that never ends.

Added by David L on 23 July 2013.
I should add that all cities with full-time fire services also have volunteer stations. The only exception used to be Muelhiem/Ruhr, a city of around 180, 000 population. But when they split their full time watch and located them at two new stations, they added a volunteer component at one of the stations. But combined stations are comparatively rare - I think Berlin has only two.

Full-time stations tend to be very large, often with ten or more bays for various special purpose units. Volunteer stations are mainly much smaller, usually two to four bays, and of course they have no accommodation and are also lacking other amenities. The German words for them are different. A full-time station is a "watch house", a volunteer station is an "equipment garage".

Some cities under 100, 000 do have a large central volunteer station - similar to what you will find in Belgium - with a number of smaller stations in the outskirts. Such central stations can have well over 100 volunteers assigned to them and may have ten or even twenty pieces of various apparatus.

The newer ones have great amenities, including bars, cinemas, meeting rooms, gyms, sports fields, swimming pools and huge parking lots. Its quite amazing what cities can afford if they have no payroll expenses!

In large cities like Dresden, Koeln and Frankfurt most of the volunteer stations are in the less densely-populated outer districts, but there are also several in central areas. In some cities, some of these volunteer stations are "off the bell" during weekday working hours, but this is comparartively rare. The ratio of volunteer to full time fire stations is not fixed, and reasons for the variations are mainly historic. As I mentioned, Muelhiem with 180, 000 population has two full-time stations but only one volunteer station. Heidelberg, with 50, 000 fewer people, has one full-time station and eight volunteer locations.

One factor is making cities increasingly interested in moving towards making more use of volunteers. As full-time firefighters are enjoying shorter working hours and more vacation and leave time, payroll costs are escalating. In Berlin, a first response duty watch has been reduced from fourteen to eight members at around half of all stations. This means two stations have to respond to every structure fire call. In turn, this means more calls to the volunteers to fill in on standby when working fires occur. It may also mean more second alarms, due to longer first due response times, but nobody is talking about that yet!

Added by Rob Johnson on 23 July 2013.
Thank you, Rob -- this is really interesting!

Another issue we see in the States is that the number of actual fire calls steadily declines (less smoking in bed, sprinklers, safer building materials, etc.) while the number of medical calls increases (aging population, etc.). Indeed, we probably should call the department "Rescue & Fire", instead of "Fire & Rescue".:-)

The situation must be similar in Europe. In the German cities, does this affect the paid vs. volunteer split?

Added by Michael Feldman on 23 July 2013.
It is indeed the same in Europe. Many combined services list 80% of more of all calls are EMS, and actual fires as low as only 2% or 3%.

The head of the Paris fire service recently proposed that they be permitted to charge for EMS service where there is no urgent medical issue, as so many calls are trivial.

In Germany EMS is provided by three different services as well as the fire service. They all work very closely together. Some or all of these other organiztions often position ambulances at full time fire stations, but it does vary a lot between cities.

However, I do not know of any examples where the volunteer fire companies in large cities also participate in EMS.

The manning changes I mentioned in the Berlin Berfusfeuerwehr were initiated to switch personnel between fire and ambulance duties, so that more ambulances could be staffed. This was because EMS calls were increasing and fire calls were diminishing.

An indirect result is that there are more calls for the volunteers to turn out, as the smaller numbers of full time on duty personnel mean that volunteers are more often needed to standby at their stations.

Added by Rob Johnson on 23 July 2013.
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