Fire Fighting Methods in Germany
How Fire Protection Department Is Organized—Professional, Volunteers, Fireman of Compulsion, Factory Firemen—Ambulance Service
THE fire fighting and fire protection methods of other countries are always of interest to the chiefs of American fire departments, and this is especially true in the case of the German fire protection departments in view of the usual thoroughness which is a feature of the German character. The following article, written by the chief of the Kiel fire department, will, therefore, be of considerable interest.
In spite of the overshadowing of the war and the conditions which have followed it, the German Fire Protection Department, which is a municipal institution can look back with pride on its past and its developments undeterred by the present depression, it having made use of all the newest technical and scientific attainments for the benefit of the community.
The German Fire Protection Department has four classes of firemen: The trained professional, the volunteer, the firemen of compulsion or duty and factory firemen. Hardly any but the very largest towns can afford to keep on the trained professional firemen. Formerly, there was the four-hour service on guard, alternating with 24 hours off. The present eight-hour workday, enforced by law, led to the adoption of the 24 hours duty alternating with 24 hours off. But as this arrangement demands an increase of three times as many men, only the very largest cities can afford the professional service.
The brigade consists of:
Head manager of the fire department (Berlin).
Manager-lieutenant of the fire department.
Chief Government surveyor of buildings or fire engineer.
First grade firemen.
The manager has the whole management of the fire protection department of a city. The Government surveyor who usually supervises the inner service, being his deputy vice-manager. The chief Government surveyor or chief fire engineer and the Government surveyor, or fire engineer, takes the rank of an army officer. They have passed their examinations in technical matters and gained their diploma. The fire wardens are now-a-day mostly risen from the ranks of the firemen. The fire engineers having mostly to do the inspecting taking each part of the towns for several weeks. The wardens are the heads of the different depots and personally lead every “call out” while the chief firemen take charge of the different inquiries.
The great cities only use motor engines and motor ladders, while gas and steam engines are for the most part done away with or kept as reserves.
The general outfit consists, for the first “call of fire,” of a motor engine and motor ladder and the so-called normal extinguishing tools at the head depot. There are, for the second and third call, other large depots with motor engines, ladders, carts for the men, etc.
Motor Ambulance Provided
In most instances, first aid is connected with the fire engineering department and usually this includes an ambulance, besides the fire engines, vehicles for all the tools and for the men. Most towns have motor ambulances, as first aid is also given at the depots. The baggage wagon is chiefly used for chimney fires, etc. The town fire department, as a rule, consist of one motor ambulance, with three men; one motor ladder and one head fireman with three or four men. Other apparatus are fitted up as occasion demands. There is also a telegrapher at each depot. The crews increase with the number of vehicles and all towns of medium size have at least two fire extinguishing apparatus.
The chief depot, mostly placed in the center of the town, is administrative; and the other depots are so distributed that they are most centrally located for each quarter of the town. The officers on duty have their sitting room and bedroom at the depots; they arc provided with undergarments, viz., pajamas, so as to be ready at a minute’s notice in case of fire alarm. The fire alarms are distributed all over the towns.
Fire Protection and Water Supply
A most important feature of our fire department, is the preventive fire protection. It includes safety guards, advice and opinion of an expert, and the various duties of the fire police officers. Nearly all building plans—for the building police—are examined at the fire technical office. It fixes its rules for securing the isolation and preventing fire, and secure the safety of people and property.
The water supply of the cities is guaranteed by the laying on of a net of water canals under the whole city, with regular under and upper hydrants. The normal pressure is between two and one-half and three atmospheres. Outside places of the town are supplied with either wells, reservoirs or such like.
Beside the trained firemen for the fire department, there are volunteers in cities, and chiefly volunteers and forced firemen only in small towns and in the country. The latter are trained differently from the trained professional firemen of a city, partly owing to the different conditions and surroundings. Of course, a volunteer fireman is better than a forced one, as he acts from pure idealism, while the latter merely obeys force. The volunteers may choose their own leaders and can, to a certain extent, frame their own laws and rules. Though their tools are not as high class as the professional, yet the last few years have witnessed a great improvement. Even many small towns now boast of motor engines or horses, while, alas! others still use the old-fashioned hand-syringe, or a steam syringe and hook ladders and stay ladders, like those in cities.
The water supply of the villages is less efficient than in the cities, as it is mostly taken from wells, ditches and ponds; neither is there a connected fire alarm, but the firehorn. siren and telephone takes its place. The hand extinguishers also play a fair part in fire protection. They consist of wet extinguishers, “Minimax”; dry extinguishers, “Total,” and foam extinguishers, “Perkis.” In large factories and in the country, they do good service when the fire is at the beginning.
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Fire Fighting Methods in Germany
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The Kiel Fire Department
So much for the general German fire protection. Now for my special department here in Kiel. Till the end of the war, Kiel was a naval town and she suffered more than other towns through the disastrous death of our navy. Kiel suffers intensely in her financial and economical struggle, and the fire protection in consequence, too. The fire department consists today of one professional fire brigade, ten companies of volunteer and the factory firemen. The professional has one chief depot with two motor engines, one ladder, two ambulances, one vehicle for the firemen, one carriage, etc. The other depots each have one motor engine, one motor ambulance and one motor ladder. The ten companies of volunteers have hand fire engines and their own engine sheds and are distributed evenly all over the town. They act as helps in great fires and by special orders, or in fires on the outskirts of the town. They are called together by a siren. The factory firemen, who are supported by the large factories, such as Krupp, “The German Wart.” etc., possess four motor engines and two steam pumps; they are, except for the factories, only called out in large fires. I have two firemen engineers with thorough technical and university education under me. The professional firemen have two fire wardens, 20 first class firemen and 86 firemen. Each company of volunteers numbers 400 men. At the head of each of the ten companies of volunteer firemen is a captain. The factory firemen number is about 60.
Space does not permit going into details about the various divisions of my work, namely, the vehicles, small fire engines, alarms, telegraph, guardroom, inner organization, working day rules, organization, discipline, water supply and police firemen. The illustrations will give a general idea of the work. I trust my efforts may help to further our former happy interchange of thoughts and ideas with American fire protection.