Keeping your cool even in the “chaos phase

Keeping your cool even in the 'chaos phase

District fire inspector thomas habermann and the two district fire chiefs jonas ludewig and ralph morgenroth explain the fire department’s approach to a rough operation based on a real operation almost three weeks ago, when a forest fire broke out near ebern.

Actually, it was just a normal sunday. Jonas ludewig is the youngest district fire chief in the county and responsible for ebern and all parts of town. The 26-year-old is about to set off on a bike ride with his partner sarah and enjoy the day off. Suddenly the peace is over: the radio message receiver emits its shrill tone and calls for an operation.

“Forest fire – more than 1000 square meters” is the first message at 16.05 o’clock, on the basis of which it cannot be estimated how rough the ausmab really is. Ludewig runs to his car, and off it goes in the direction of ebern.

Young forest is ablaze

The eyrichshof volunteer fire department is the first on the scene between eyrichshof and fischbach. On an area of 150 by 150 meters, the young forest between the bicycle path and the old federal road is ablaze. After consultation with the local commander, manuel prediger, ludewig takes over the command of the operation, because it becomes apparent that it will be a rough operation. And so it is.

In order not to endanger even more forest, numerous units around ebern are subsequently alerted. “The order of the room is extremely important. If this is done incorrectly, it can have fatal consequences for the entire operation”, ludewig emphasizes. As a junior officer, he has to set up a staging area during a large-scale alarm in the so-called chaos phase. In this case, the entrance to the village of eyrichshof was designated for this purpose. All the arriving fire engines gather there and are then ordered to the actual scene of the incident, depending on what equipment is needed.

Prudent approach

“It is also important to radiate calm”, ludewig emphasizes. Because hectic was transferred fast on the other task forces. But the young district fire chief acts prudently: he first sends the water-carrying vehicles from ebern and pfarrweisach into the forest to prevent the fire from spreading.

Also on site is district fire chief ralph morgenroth. He keeps ludewig’s back by initially taking over the radio traffic and passing on his decisions and orders. Initially, a shuttle service will be set up to ensure that there is always enough loach water available. At the same time, a total of three B-hose lines, each about 600 meters long, are laid from the village of fischbach and the little river baunach. In the meantime, the support group for local operations command (UG oel) arrived, which is led by district fire chief dieter murken and supports the operations commander in the event of major damage. As a unit of the disaster control in the district, the UG oel has a state-of-the-art emergency command vehicle with a lot of technical equipment. From here the radio traffic with the task forces and the integrated control center (ILS) is taken over, situation maps are represented, the operation diary is led and many other things. In this specific case, morgenroth is freed up for other tasks.

The distribution of tasks

Four sections are formed: pfarrweisach commander sebastian bock is responsible for the water demand, his ebern colleague, commander michael wustenberg, takes care of the shuttle traffic, while district fire chief andreas franz, who is also commander of the ermershausen fire department, is in command of the staging area. Later, district fire chief alfred hauck from the neighboring inspection district joins in and helps out as an assistant guide.

Morgenroth is assigned a special task: in the meantime, the ebern police department has contacted us and offered a helicopter that is stationed nearby and is currently free. Ludewig doesn’t have to think twice: he gratefully accepts the offer. Morgenroth takes over this newly formed section and instructs the helicopter crew, which arrives at the scene within 20 minutes. Morgenroth also had to lend a hand when the folding container used by the helicopter to transport the water was made ready for takeoff. “Like an umbrella, you can unfold the collapsible”, muses the 46-year-old.

The police helicopter flies over the fire four to five times and empties its hundreds of liters of water, which it had previously fetched from nearby ponds.

“The success of this action was very good, because with the water mist, which forms, it can be optimally loosened from the high”, morgenroth is pleased.

Situation meetings important

“It is always important to stay in contact with all units and to discuss the next steps”, jonas ludewig emphasizes, referring to the situation meetings with the fire department, the BRK, the police, the THW and the head of the rescue service. THW in particular has many possibilities to support a fire department operation, be it in this case by digging up the ground or making a cut in the forest with a wheel loader. And the rescue service is also very important. With a deployment force of 30 people, the emergency services are provided with sanitation and also with drinks. At two distribution points, a total of several hundred liters of water and cold drinks are distributed to the helpers. But the bavarian red cross is also very helpful with its drone, which creates an excellent picture of the situation from the air.

After about four and a half hours, everyone was finally able to leave, after the forest area had been intensively searched again with thermal imaging cameras for embers. “Only together can we cope with such an operation”, the incident commander emphasizes and once again expresses his thanks to the 130 volunteer firefighters from ebern, fischbach, eyrichshof, unterpreppach, gereuth, leuzendorf, burgpreppach, pfarrweisach, rentweinsdorf and untermerzbach as well as the works fire department from the company valeo (formerly FTE).

Premiere in front of the television camera

But ludewig not only had to lead the firefight, he also had to answer questions from the press, because the people had of course also noticed what was happening. For the first time, ludewig stood in front of a television camera and answered the journalist’s questions. “I was a bit nervous, but i think i got the essentials across well.”, says the district fire chief in retrospect. The tv stations obviously saw it that way, too, because besides tv mainfranken and bayerischer rundfunk also SAT 1 bayern reported about the forest fire.

Rough praise from the district fire inspector

District fire inspector thomas habermann was far outside his area of responsibility on the sunday in question. On the way, however, he was kept very well informed by the ILS by telephone about how the situation was developing. When he was back home, he first inquired about the well-being of the two injured people. Two firefighters were slightly injured: one suffered a burn injury, the other was injured in the leg. After medical care on the spot and afterwards in the hospital ebern the two were however already again on the way of the improvement.

After getting an overview of the organizational course of the operation, habermann gave his youngest district fire chief a rough praise: “the procedure was perfect, and it was right that a large fire brigade was alerted”, habermann assesses the first rough operation of jonas ludewig, whom he presided over as operations manager. The district fire inspector saw this as a sign of the very good training standard that the powerful fire department has in the entire district.