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Major fire at Zurich main station

Category: International Firefighting Team of the Year

Fire department: Professional Fire Department Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland)

Operation: Fire at main station

The Zurich Train Station Square consists of a large building complex with a courtyard. This complex contains three adjacent houses that were being renovated. At the time of the fire some parts of these three building were in construction. The facade was structurally in its original state. Inside the building, there were many wall openings, no fire zones and the fire walls within the three buildings also had various openings. In the courtyard there was a construction crane; the Limmat River ran next to the building complex.

Stage 1: Alarm and operation by FD 1

On the night of Saturday, August 25, 2018 a major fire broke at Bahnhofplatz 1 and Bahnhofquai 15. The first Fire Department  was notified at 2:18 am and was on the spot within 4 minutes. The fire went from the 5th floor throughout the whole attic and had already spread to Bahnhofquai 15. The Fire Chief  alarmed all the City Fire Departments (4 TLF, 3 turntable ladders, 1 53-m aerial  rescue platform). 

Soon, the risks to the second house and thermal effects on the crane were recognized. The turntable ladder was used to protect the second house and two firefighting lines were set up to cool the crane and hold the firewall on the 8th -floor roof terrace.

Stage 2: List of all City Fire Department equipment, organisation of the meeting point, subsequent actions.

The following FD equipment were distributed as follows: one turntable ladder in the courtyard, which was very difficult to place because a roller door reduced the passage depth by about 10 cm. One turntable ladder on the corners of houses at n. 1 and at n. 15 and aerial rescue platform for the line at the firewall of house at n. 15.

The standby officer who had just arrived (B team) spoke with the police and ambulance crews and offered the Militia FD East to the A team and the commando vehicle team. After organising the disaster site and taking a first look at the situation, the standby officer quickly realised that the firewall of house at n. 15 would not stand up to the fire and that it was quickly spreading to the third house. He thus offered the head of operations two support bases and increased the alarm level to “major” with all four militia companies. The aerial rescue platform was withdrawn and set up at the next fire wall. With the arrival of the A team, the management structure "major event" was established.

Stage 3: Major event

The following sections and departments were formed based on the sub-problems: 

  • Section North with the City FD, the Militia FD East and the Kloten support base
  • Section South with the Wallisellen Fire Department support base and the City FD aerial rescue
  • Section "Maintain environment" with the Militia FD North, the City FD ABC measurement vehicle and the water protection police
  • Reinforcement by Militia FD South for further operations
  • Tactical reserves by Militia FD West in their depot
  • Logistics for an orderly disaster site with food and changing area
  • Commando team with vehicle of the Militia FD East

Through the well-structured interaction of all involved 264 forces, the fire was extinguished by the early morning hours. The adjacent houses, which were not being renovated, were saved. Due to the cooperation between the city police, ambulances, the FDs and the commanding centres, the operation was handled professionally.

As a learning organisation, we held structured and open discussions afterwards to discover our weaknesses. We saw also, however, that we acted very professionally and in a structured manner at all levels, which made this operation very successful. All nearby residents could be evacuated and we likewise had no casualties.