Rescuers in red.
Firefighters' Week was dedicated to the fascinating appeal of the fire service.
During the week from 25 to 30 June, almost 10,000 visitors made their way up the small hill to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and were rewarded with a magnificent sight: around 80 historical fire brigade vehicles formed an extraordinary backdrop against which to bring the story of the 'rescuers in red' to life in all its many aspects. Treasured historical relics were brought out of the garages and sheds of private collectors and clubs as well as from the fire service and volunteer fire service. "We discovered this KS 20 Magirus from 1920 in a garage several years ago. It had been replaced by a new one in 1945 and just abandoned," says a member of the volunteer fire service from Aalen, Germany. Apart from the rubber tyres, the vehicle is in original condition. The amazing thing about historical fire engines is that "even after 25 years of service, it's still drivable and in working order," as one vintage vehicle fan explained.
Ahead of its time.
"We are particularly pleased that this special exhibition features historical fire engines which the public would normally only rarely get to see, if at all," said Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. "A real highlight of the display is one of the oldest fire engines in Germany: the petrol-electric fire engine from 1913." Its drive system is a combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor. The combustion engine drives a generator. This generates electricity which is converted to traction by the two wheel hub electric motors integrated into the rear wheels. The design of the drive system creates space for the all-important firefighting equipment. It remained in active service until 1944, and is today owned by the fire service in Freiburg.
"It's a marvellous vehicle which was already pointing the way to the future 100 years ago, and which was only produced in very small numbers," explained Michael Bock. Another rare exhibit is the 1925 Benz-Gaggenau fire engine owned by the Winnenden Fire Service Museum.
First "motorised fire-fighting pump"
The Mercedes-Benz brand is closely linked with the history of the fire engine. "In the early 20th century Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft were already producing special-purpose vehicles for the fire service," said the head of the museum. "Gottlieb Daimler had already applied for a patent on
an invention on 29 July 1888. This patent was for the motorised fire-fighting pump." Although the vehicle itself was actually horse-drawn, the pump for the water was driven by a combustion engine. This made sure it could be ready for use in the shortest possible time.
Not just red, but also green
Not all of the fire engines shine in the traditional colour of danger. Here and there we see a glimmer of blue and green among the various shades of red. The colour used by the fire service in Germany was not standardised until 1921, according to Alfred Grün, former chief of the Daimler plant fire brigade at Stuttgart Untertürkheim. Although this regulation was lifted by the National Socialists. "The German fire service fell under the authority of the police at that time, and so they took on the colour green." The Mercedes-Benz LLG TS 8/8 from 1941 dates from that era and still sports the historical green paintwork. Private owners were also on-hand with their personal interpretations of the fire service vehicle theme. "You want to know why I bought a fire engine?" grinned Rainer Brandenburg from the driver's seat of his 1971 Daimler-Benz 408 G. "We needed a bigger vehicle, and the kids love it!"
The fascinating appeal of the
Together with all the classic vehicles, visitors were able to take a good look at the most up-to-date appliance from Stuttgart's fire service. It was customised to meet the special requirements of the city of Stuttgart, and is equipped with breathing apparatus for lengthy operations. As one of the city's firefighters put it: "Stuttgart is like a Swiss cheese with all its tunnels, so you need special equipment." The Firefighters' Week exhibition is linked to the 11th Baden-Württemberg State Fire Service Day. "The programme of events is aimed particularly to appeal to the interests of fire brigade affiliates. For example, there are training simulators for call-outs and a truck rollover simulator," said Michael Bock. Fire engines have to be driven safely themselves so that the safety of other road-users is not threatened and so that they can fulfil their main task: saving lives.
Firefighters' Week featured a varied programme of events celebrating the fascinating appeal of the fire service, which often begins at a young age and for many people can last a lifetime.