The greatest fire show on earth

Exhibitors from around the world showed their latest innovations at Interschutz 2010 in Germany earlier this summer

By George Potter
Fire Protection Specialist/Fire Service Instructor

Over the past 75 years, Germany has been hosting what has become the world's most extensive fire protection exhibition and congress, Interschutz. The first exhibition, known then as Der Rote Hahn — The Red Rooster — was held in 1935 in Dresden. In 1961, it was rebranded as Interschutz (which can be loosely translated as International Protection, to reflect its international significance).

Since 2000, the event has been held every five years, with the most recent taking place in June in its now established home in the city of Hannover.

Photo George Potter
Photo George Potter

What makes Interschutz so unique, exciting and inviting? Just about everything that is shown, demonstrated or discussed during the week-long event, which just "happens" to coincide with the German National Firefighters Congress and muster.

This "coincidence" guarantees thousands of trade-oriented visitors, hosts from the 900,000-member German Fire Service plus thousands more from around the world. Even with the current world financial crisis, attendance this year surpassed expectations with more than 125,000 visitors from 46 countries.

Exhibitors from around the world show their latest innovations at Interschutz. Every area of firefighting was covered, from firefighter training systems (flashover containers) through to personal protection equipment (MSA's new ultra-slim SCBA was a real eye-opener), rescue tools, and high-angle rescue materials.

And then there was the apparatus. From two, three and four-wheel motorcycles equipped with high pressure rapid intervention systems through to urban pumpers and aerials, major aviation appliances, an amphibious pumper (for the Venice Fire Brigade in Italy), remote-controlled vehicles for confined area access, and aerial devices, from less than 45 foot height up to the world record vertical height of 369 feet courtesy of the articulated/telescopic platform by Bronto of Finland.

Dozens of engines and aerials of all sizes and capacities were shown inside the exhibition halls and in the exterior demonstration areas. Parallel to the product exhibition and demonstrations were a number of technical presentations and sessions, which included speakers from departments and organizations in the United States such as NIST.

In the United States, many South American countries, Australia and New Zealand, the "normal" pumping engine configuration starts with the motor (gasoline or diesel) mounted either in front of or under the cab (either simple or crew type), followed by the coachwork under which the mid-ship pump is mounted over the gear box, the water tank and equipment compartments along the sides and at the rear.

On top of the body, the hose bed carries lengths of preconnected hose of various diameters. The European engine concept differs in several ways as was visible in the displays at Interschutz. Although the chassis configuration of cab-over engine is more often than not prevailing, engine aheads are quite common in Scandinavia and many Eastern European countries.

The coachwork is usually roller shutter enclosed compartments in which rolled lengths of hose and equipment are carried, and the PTO pump is mounted in a compartment at the rear of the body. Quite often, a large reel of preconnected hose is also mounted at the rear.

European aerial devices are designed and built as such, with no ground ladders, forcible entry tools, ventilators, filling compartments, etc. From 45 to 171 foot high in straight stick (rear mounted) configuration or 30 to 333 foot telescopic/articulated platforms often with fixed ladders mounted along the sides of the sections, and fixed waterways to feed master stream monitors mounted in the rescue cage at the end, the European aerial is less complicated than its U.S. counterpart.

Among the "show stoppers" this year were Oshkosh's Striker ARFF vehicle with a totally renewed bodywork design and Ferrera's Inundator 3,000 gpm pumper for industrial applications with a claimed output of nearly 6,000 gpm. Other innovations included multiple use engines carrying hazmat equipment, a micro–pumper for in-plant industrial use, remote-controlled tracked vehicles fitted with ventilators and Rosenbauer's special pumper equipped with standard road wheels and wheels for railway circulation. All this is just a small sample of the products and services that could be found at the event.

Approximately 80 companies involved in a host of fire protection activities from the United States were present, including 28 in a specific USA Pavilion. While space does not permit mentioning all of the American exhibitors, and I apologize for those not mentioned, they included Akron, Elkhart, Crash Rescue Equipment Service, Fire-Dex, Globe, Gore, Honeywell, Hurst, the IAFC, NFPA and so many more.

The next Interschutz is scheduled to be held in 2015 in Hannover — it's well worth the effort to consider attending.

George H. Potter is a former Maryland volunteer and USAF firefighter who has lived in Spain for more than 46 years. He is a certified Spanish fire service instructor and has developed fire safety training programs for hundreds of Spanish and Portuguese entities including hospitals, banks, cement plants, food product processors, hotels, liquid and gas fuel storage facilities, and telecommunications operators as well as public service fire departments. He is on the Board of Governors of the Spanish firefighters association ASELF.

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