View from the floor of world's biggest fire show

Tallest fire service aerial device ever built was among 700 emergency vehicles on display at Interschutz 2010 in Germany in June

By Mike Wieder

One of the primary reasons that many fire service personnel attend trade shows is to view new fire apparatus. Fire apparatus manufacturers typically show their latest designs and innovations with the hope that attendees may consider these items during the purchasing process for their respective departments.

Attendees gain perspective on what fire departments in other parts of the country are doing to make their apparatus more efficient and safe. Major trade shows, such as the Fire Department Instructors Conference, the IAFC's Fire-Rescue International, and the Pennsylvania Fire Expo are the largest of their types in the United States and often have 200 to 250 pieces of apparatus on display.

Photo Mike WiederBronto Skylift's behemoth seven-axle, 112 meter elevating platform apparatus makes its debut.
Photo Mike WiederBronto Skylift's behemoth seven-axle, 112 meter elevating platform apparatus makes its debut.

However, the largest U.S. trade shows do not even come close to the Interschutz Exhibition held every five years in Germany. This show can easily be called the World's Fair of fire service trade shows. The 2010 edition of this show was held in Leipzig from June 7-12.

50 countries
More than 125,000 people from more than 50 countries were in attendance; five times more people than the largest U.S. fire trade show. There were 1,350 exhibitors from 46 countries that had their products and services on display.

As with U.S. shows, fire apparatus and other emergency vehicles are a major part of Interschutz. An estimated 700-plus emergency vehicles were on display at the show by apparatus manufacturers from all over the world.

Two U.S. based apparatus manufacturers, Ferrara and Pierce/Oshkosh, each had two vehicles on display. The apparatus were scattered amongst five large exhibit halls and a large outdoor display area. The vast majority of apparatus were from European manufacturers.

Clearly there are differences between the design of European fire apparatus and that we are accustomed to in North America. On average, European apparatus are smaller in size, have smaller pump capacities, and carry considerably less water than do most North American apparatus.

Photo Mike Wieder

On the other hand, the engineering of European apparatus compartmentalization in most cases far exceeds our apparatus. To sum it up, most European apparatus carry as much, or more, portable equipment than do North American apparatus despite the fact that the vehicles are considerably smaller.

European design of compartment space, equipment access/deployment, and storage methods far exceed most North American apparatus, as can be seen in the two images on the right.

One exception when it comes to this point is European aerial apparatus. Their aerial apparatus typically have fewer compartments and carry substantially less portable equipment than do North American aerials. Aerial apparatus equipped with fire pumps (quints) are exceptionally rare.

Chassis sizes
There is a wide variance in aerial apparatus chassis sizes, ranging from substantially shorter rigs than the North American aerial to others that are much larger than those to which we are accustomed. European aerial apparatus also commonly have much taller aerial devices than we see over here. Aerials ladders and elevating platforms with lengths from 150 to 220 feet are relatively common.

Photo Mike Wieder

Clearly the talk of the 2010 show was the debut of Bronto Skylift's behemoth seven-axle, 112 meter (368 foot) elevating platform apparatus. Reportedly this is the tallest fire service aerial device ever built. When deployed it towered over the other apparatus on display (Figure 3).

The aerial device has a maximum platform capacity of about 1,100 pounds. The waterway system is capable of flowing 1,000 gpm to the tip. However, keep in mind that if the aerial device is fully extended, the water pressure lost to elevation would be about 160 psi alone. In order to supply enough pressure for a reliable fire stream to that height special, high-pressure pumping equipment would be required.

For fire apparatus purchasing agents and enthusiasts, the June 2015 Interschutz in Hannover, Germany should be on your calendars. The information and fresh ideas that can be gained by attending this event make it well worth the expense of getting there.

Mike Wieder is a 31-year fire service veteran who serves as Assistant Director of Fire Protection Publications at Oklahoma State University and Executive Director of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA).

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