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120 firefighters stop fire in listed house

Category: National Firefighting Team of the Year

Fire department: Freiwillige Feuerwehr Tauberbischofsheim (Baden-Württemberg)

Operation: Fire in listed house

On November 6, 2016, the Tauberbischofsheim Volunteer Fire Department was awakened at 4:17 am by the alarm “unclear smoke development in town”. What at first sounded like a routine call developed into an over 16-hour-long operation that challenged FDs throughout the region and required excellent teamwork and high commitment, not to mention great amounts of material.

Even as they were coming to the firehouse, crew members who lived near the burning house could see heavy smoke and flames. The building itself was a listed half-timbered construction formerly used as a monastery. It currently houses the Tauberbischofsheim construction authorities. The alarm was simultaneously sent to the police command and situation centre as well as to the Main-Tauber Integrated Despatch. Due to the spread of the fire and knowledge of the local situation, the head of operations immediately began extensive measures. Before the first forces had reached the deployment site, the alarm was escalated to roof structure fire and the Distelhausen and Dittigheim units of the Tauberbischofsheim FD were tasked with constructing a long-distance water supply line. The Bad Mergentheim FD was also requested to come with a firetruck and second turntable ladder. 

Upon arrival, the Lauda-Königshofen FD was also requested to bring yet another firetruck; a short time later, the Dienstadt and Dittwar units of the Tauberbischofsheim FD were called to bring further breathing apparatuses. As some of the requested forces had long journeys to the destination, the first forces began working without support. Up to 3 troops were working in the building interior; one troop was working with the Tauberbischofsheim FD’s turntable ladder. With the arrival of the turntable ladder from Bad Mergentheim, fortifications could be set up in the roof area using two turntable ladders. These prevented the fire from spreading to the east wing of the adjacent horseshoe-shaped building. In addition to the city administration offices, the east wing contains a cafe. 

To protect the church located on the other side of the burning building as well as to open the roof of the building itself, additional aerial rescue vehicles were needed. For this, the head of operations decided to request turntable ladders from Hardheim in the adjacent Neckar-Odenwald region, followed shortly thereafter by turntable ladders from Weikersheim in the southern Main-Tauber area. As they were on the way, the roof of the building ignited. When they arrived, the Hardheim firefighters – who had also called for additional support from en route – began using their turntable ladders to attack the fire from the inner part of the horseshoe. The Weikersheim crew had now arrived with a turntable ladder and firetruck and began working on the same part of the roof from the street side. 

To ensure sufficient numbers of personnel and breathing apparatuses, the Werbach FD was also called. In addition, the Bad Mergentheim FD brought its equipment carriers with breathing apparatuses as well. Around 10 am, the situation had eased. The cleanup work then followed, with the time-consuming search for remaining embers in the very hot rooms of the city administration, especially the construction authorities’ archives.

During this phase of the operation, the Tauberbischofsheim FD received an alarm from the fire detection system of a nursing home. By assembling a group of firefighters waiting for further commands at the staging area, a vehicle from the Bad Mergentheim FD could be manned and sent to the alarm site together with a command vehicle from the Tauberbischofsheim FD and a squad leader. As a precautionary measure, one of the turntable ladders was readied for use if necessary; this was not required, however.

Around 1 pm, the Hochhausen and Impfingen units of the Tauberbischofsheim FD were requested to support and relieve the previous firefighters while other crew members were gradually dismissed from the operation. The cleanup work, the opening of the roof cladding, its provisional closure and the search for remaining embers, which had to be transported outside as they consisted of several hundred kilogrammes of wet files, went into the early evening hours.

The following Monday, nearly 12 hours after leaving the site, the Tauberbischofsheim FD was again called for cleanup work. In this case, walls had to be partially opened because the embers had eaten deep into the centuries-old oak beams.

Altogether, circa 120 firefighters, supported by dozens of full-time and volunteer members of rescue services, participated in this operation.