New aircraft rescue firefighting trucks arrive
October 19, 2011
ANSBACH, Germany -- Installation Management Command Europe received three new aircraft rescue firefighting trucks with a fourth one on its way at the Region Fire Fighting Training Center.
The three trucks replace Army-owned vehicles that are more than 20-years old at fire stations in Hohenfels, Stuttgart and Katterbach. A fourth truck for Illesheim Fire Station is currently in production and scheduled for delivery in late November.
"It was almost a full-time job ensuring we have operational vehicles during flight operations," said Sigurd Mack, Installation Management Command Europe fire protection specialist. "Our office rotated them around the best we could to backfill for operational vehicles.
"Like any other truck or car they are simply worn out after over 20 years. Host Nation LFOA did an outstanding job, but there is only some much you can do if spare parts are not available anymore," he said. "You have to custom build the parts and that costs time and a lot of money."
In addition to better capabilities and mission readiness for the fire departments the vehicles bring some urgently needed financial relief to the garrisons. The trucks will drastically reduce the burden on repair cost compared to the old ones.
Normally, IMCOM headquarters procures vehicles centrally and fields them to the garrisons; however, because Europe has different requirements than the United States, IMCOM-Europe Emergency Services Division is authorized to purchase vehicles for Europe-based U.S. garrisons. The vehicles still meet all DoD and U.S. performance requirements but are locally manufactured.
"This vehicle is really what we need," said Josef Binner, a crew chief with the U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Fire Department. "It has enough extinguishing agent, accelerates and maneuvers great."
"Fortunately, it does not happen every day, but you have to be prepared," said Binner. "With an air crash there is no time to lose. We have to be on scene within three minutes and then you need lots of water and foam to knock the fire down. And you need it quick. With 3,000 gallons of water we finally have it."
"Aviation technology has drastically progressed in the last 25 years and so have the requirements for firefighting. These trucks now close that capability gap," said Hermann Seitz, assistant fire chief at USAG Stuttgart.
The trucks have a unique feature, an infrared camera.
"This feature for us is worth its weight in gold," said USAG Katterbach Crew Chief Peter Goetz. "We can now find the exact hot spots and cool them down so the fire does not re-ignite. Basically, we can now extinguish a fire before it occurs."
"And with the under truck nozzles, we have our own sprinkler system," added Helge Gleich, fire inspector at USAG Hohenfels. "Now we can get closer to the fire and work more efficiently."
"The vehicle acquisition was a great team effort from a lot of parties," said Mack. "The concept was developed by the Region Office together with the IMCOM Europe Firefighting Training Center to ensure everything supports the firefighting techniques and tactics taught at the training center. Quality assurance and acceptances were performed by the Host Nation Liaison Field Operating Agency fire truck experts from Schweinfurt.
"Those are highly skilled experts for such a complex thing as a fire truck," said Mack. "I feel I understand how the trucks work, but their knowledge about the details and what could break is unbelievable. They have forgotten more about relay switches and brake lines than I will ever know," he said.
The final element of the acquisition was a comprehensive training for the receiving fire departments at the IMCOM-Europe Firefighting Training Center in Ansbach.
Fire Fighters from each receiving fire station were trained as instructors for the new vehicles in a comprehensive four-day class. A thorough mix of academic and hard hands on training was provided. Instructors from the manufacturer taught the firefighting systems and specific driving techniques, including practice in driving off road.
For the driving instructions the manufacturer sent their chief test driver who is usually involved in the development of new vehicles.
"We have the responsibility for search and rescue missions within 15 nautical miles around the airfield and this also involves off-road driving. Its invaluable what the test driver showed us with these trucks. Besides great trucks, we really got the hands-on of knowledge how to use these tools the smartest way," said Ernst Homeier, a crew chief with USAG Ansbach Fire Department.