Hennenbach youth volunteer firefighters tour, train at Urlas
August 1, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Aug. 1, 2013) -- A group of youth volunteer firefighters from Hennenbach trained at and toured the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Fire Training Center at Urlas July 25 as part of the ongoing effort to maintain and strengthen the working relationship between American and German firefighters and first responders.
Early during their tour of the facility, the team encountered a surprise as a fire erupted from the engine compartment of a car built and used for fire training.
Trained to be ready at a moment's notice, the team set up their water supply and, within minutes, extinguished the fire. According to one member of the Hennenbach group, David Mayer, this was a complete surprise: "We came here and they said, 'Now we will burn this car. Extinguish it.'"
Mayer, who has been with the fire department for between five and six years, said he first visited the training area about a year ago during a force-protection and mass-casualty training scenario that incorporated an assortment of German fire departments from the area. Though he had seen the U.S. training facility previously, it was a "completely new experience" for the rest of the group and was a good experience for him again.
"I find it really interesting because it's a different experience from in our German fire department, like the car and other possibilities -- and being here, of course, an American base," Mayer said. "Everything is bigger."
"It's quite impressive," said Sylvia Kraus, a regular volunteer firefighter who trains with the youth because she is still considered new. "I don't know where we can get anything like this to train with."
The training facility, which they toured after their trial by fire, also offers a multi-level burning building simulator, an aircraft fire simulator and a control room that is networked to each simulator on the site.
Alexander Gernhard, Fire Emergency Services training officer, hosted the tour in German for the young volunteer firefighters, who he said benefit from seeing how full-time, active firefighters train to respond to fires and what kind of training facilities the garrison offers its own firefighters.
Gernhard said this is particularly important for these youth firefighters because "they normally don't go out to real fires, so this was a big thing for them." This ongoing kind of exchange is also important for more experienced firefighters, he added, because the Americans and Germans often work side by side in real emergencies.
Although USAG Ansbach maintains its own firefighting unit as part of the Directorate of Emergency Services, Urlas and Shipton also fall under the purview of the Hennench Feuerwehr in case of a bigger fire or whenever USAG Ansbach needs the extra helping hand.
"We have a fire department on post, but if we need assistance from a second or a third group or company, then we get assistance from the surrounding volunteer fire departments -- from Ansbach, Hennenbach or from the county," Gernhard said.
Gernhard added that maintaining the German-American partnership is also critical because then "everybody knows each other's operations, and we need to look outside at what operations they use and what equipment so we actually know each other in case we need to rely on them pretty well -- and the same thing on the other side."
For the July 25 tour and training, Gernhardt said he received nothing but positive feedback from the German partners.
"Everybody really loved it," he said. "The first thing was being on a U.S. base at a U.S. fire department and then actually training with a realistic fire. They really enjoyed that."