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A day at the professional fire brigade: every second counts

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A day at the professional fire brigade
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E t is half past eight in the evening, twice that discreet gong sounds. He sounds as if he could call the champagne slippers back to the box at the opera too. Everyone slowly strolls back to their seats to indulge the drama’s final act. Not here. Nothing goes slowly here, and nobody loiteres. Here everything goes as quickly as it can only be done with the utmost routine, attention and seriousness, regardless of whether it is at three in the afternoon or at three in the night. Because you don't give yourself up to the drama, you want to prevent it.

Forget the navigation system, the card in your head counts

It always starts with a call: 112. Hello, there is the fire department, there is smoke from the apartment across the street. What is your name, where do you live, what exactly do you see? Almost at the same time the printer spits out the alarm cable - location, map section, keywords such as fire, residential building, industrial building, traffic accident, helpless person. 'Nobody knows exactly what it will look like on site. And as soon as the gates open in front, nothing can be calculated,' says Ralf Lerch, operations manager at the main fire station in Stuttgart.

The alarm was less than 30 seconds ago Lerch sits in the passenger seat of the VW T5, at the wheel Horst Esslinger. Blue light, siren, off we go. Not according to the navigation system, but according to the map in your head - everyone has to take exams in order to know the area of ​​operation as well as they know their colleagues on whom they blindly rely.

Breathing air for a maximum of 30 minutes

On the first floor of the fire station, the hand hits a red button. Looks like an elevator shaft, but when the doors swing open there's only a hole in the floor and a six-meter-long metal rod in the middle. Down. Running to the cloakroom with your personal protective clothing. Put your boots on, put on your trousers, close your jacket, check: gloves? There. Grab your helmet and get to the car. At the push of a button, the doors of the fire engine close behind the intervention team, those who are right at the front and who during the short, fast journey - it never takes more than a few minutes - have to get ready for what might await. 'In the past,' says Thomas Reischmann, 'the panes usually burst in a fire, and smoke and heat could escape. Today, with the safety glazing,is that different. The gases and heat stay in the building. 'Temperatures of 600, 700, 800 degrees, poisonous gases that lay you flat after two unprotected breaths. Not the fire itself, but heat, steam and gases are the worst. Unless an ignition chases a wall of flames against the firefighters.

The 18-ton truck rocks and creaks, the radio croaks, with a metallic clatter, little light, little time. On the left the elbow hits the checker plate, on the right the arm winds into space when trying to put on the respiratory protective equipment like a backpack. Thomas Reischmann helps, pulls the straps tight, hands the mask and flame protection hood over. The impression: space capsule, and they'll shoot you out soon.

This hissing noise with every heavy one Breath, sealed off behind the mask, narrowed field of vision, final check: the ax on the left, the thermal imaging camera in front of the chest, radio, lamp and regulator on the right, the manometer on the left. 'This is your bodyguard' Markus Pflugfelder had said. 'You have 300 bar breathing air, at best half an hour. Two thirds remain as a reserve for incidents and the way back. Sure?' Mute nod, breathe calmly. The right hand goes to a yellow button next to the hip, a strong pressure releases the frame from the seat. Out.

Sweat is running behind the mask, it tickles the nose, the heart is pumping in the throat, long ago wet the underwear, thick veins, half a hundredweight of equipment on the man, heavy steps, fluttering nerves, plus now two carrying baskets with tubes, each a good ten kilos. What can be seen in the kitchen of the apartment has burned or melted. The soot has settled black on the tiles, in the room only thick smoke.

The remains of the schnitzel are charred beyond recognition. The apartment owners had forgotten to turn off the stove. You were in a hurry - the opera.

Fire station in Stuttgart

Fire station 3 is also the main fire station in Stuttgart . 70 civil servants work there in three shifts. Together with 330 other colleagues in the other four guards in the city, they are called to around 15,000 missions every year. In addition to the VW T5 of the operations management team - 180 hp, all-wheel drive, seven-speed DSG - two fire engines belong to a fire and rescue train. The newer of the two carries an Iveco Magirus body on a Mercedes chassis, the 7.2-liter six-cylinder diesel produces 326 hp, the top speed is 90 km /h, the total weight is 18 tons. On board are 2,000 liters of extinguishing water, foam compound, several hundred meters of hoses, ladders, a generator and a centrifugal pump with an output of 2,000 liters /min at ten bar pressure. There is also a 286 hp truck with a 6.4-liter six-cylinder diesel and automatic transmission. The Iveco Magirus body on a Mercedes chassis with a steerable rear axle has a turntable ladderThree-man rescue cage that can be extended to a height of around 30 meters above ground.

112 is the uniform European emergency number for alerting ambulances, the police or the fire brigade. It can be reached at any time free of charge via landline, mobile phone or fax without a dialing code. A multilingual employee takes the calls and forwards the information to the emergency services. Include your name, address, phone number, and what happened where.

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