Stuttgart Fire Brigade Museum charts history of firefighting

Courtesy of Feuerwehr-Museum Stuttgart

Story & photos by Carola Meusel
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

Most children love the sight and sounds of a fire truck. For an up close and personal look, the “Feuerwehr-Museum,” or fire fighter museum, in Stuttgart-Münster offers a chance to see, touch and experience all there is to know about the Stuttgart Fire Department.

The museum aims to depict the evolution of the Stuttgart Fire Department, as well as the history of the firefighting profession, according to Bernd Jung, chairman of the Feuerwehrverein Stuttgart, an association that founded the museum in 2001.

“By showcasing the development of firefighting from past to present, we can educate visitors and Stuttgart residents, as well as our firefighter trainees so that they can learn from history and apply this knowledge to their present job,” Jung said.

The Feuerwehr-Museum is located in a historic building from 1906 that formerly housed a machine factory. Today, in an area of 2,500 square meters, visitors can view fire extinguisher equipment that was used between 1480 and 1850; past and present fire alarm systems; extendable, portable and aerial ladders; hoses; nozzles; pike poles; as well as uniforms and patches, helmets, and respiratory protection equipment to include self-contained breathing apparatuses and resuscitation equipment. Manually-operated fire carriages from the early 1800s are also a highlight of the exhibition, according to Jung.

The ground floor displays feature 25 fire trucks from the 1940s up to the 1980s to include fire engines, aerial ladders, a heavy rescue hydraulic crane, a snorkel (articulated platform), and a heavy rescue truck specifically for use on railways. All vehicles were used by the Stuttgart Fire Department.

According to Jung, the history of firefighting dates back to the Roman Emperor Augustus who utilized his Soldiers to extinguish fires. The exhibition at the museum, however, begins in the Middle Ages when fire fighting was a rather unstructured and sometimes chaotic endeavor, according to Jung.

Some may be surprised to find wooden buckets (Bütten) that were typically used by winemakers to collect grapes. Many times the buckets were filled with water and used to combat fires. It also was common practice that married couples received a “Feuerlöscheimer” (fire bucket) from the town hall. Depending on the couples’ status, the buckets were made out of leather, fiber or willow tree branches, Jung said. Back then, bucket brigades were used to combat fires.

Stuttgart’s first fire extinguishing procedures were formulated by Count Eberhard im Bart of Württemberg in 1492, and described methods to combat fires in the city, Jung said.
During the 19th century, firefighting became a more organized and military structured task with the foundation of tactical units, squads, companies, battalions and fire captains and adjutants giving orders to effectively protect live and property.

The pioneers were Conrad Dietrich Magirus, a businessman and inventor from Ulm, and Carl Metz, a mechanical engineer from Heidelberg. Metz manufactured manual-pump apparatuses that were revolutionary for combating fire. Metz also was the founder of volunteer fire brigades.
The Magirus Company started to produce fire fighting vehicles in 1866. At his fire apparatus company, Magirus also invented the turntable ladder (aerial apparatus), which became essential firefighting equipment.

Stuttgart’s professional fire brigade was founded Nov. 2, 1891. Its first fire chief, Bruno Jacoby, who served from 1891 to 1918, was known as “Brand Jacob,” or Fire Jacob.
Some of Stuttgart’s historic fires, such as the fire at the Old Castle on Dec. 21, 1932, are also illustrated. It took the fire department 10 days to finally control the fire, and three fire fighters lost their lives in the flames.Photos of Stuttgart’s fire prevention week from 1947 at Schlossplatz are also displayed.

In 1970, Stuttgart’s Fire Department received an emergency physician’s vehicle. Two of them are on display at the museum.

“Emergency medical service also is a major task for fire departments, since the fire fighters often are the first ones on site,” said Karl Doersam, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s fire chief.

Historical automobile enthusiasts will enjoy the “GM 26-1,” the first snorkel operated by a German municipal fire department in 1966, as well as the “KW16”, a heavy rescue hydraulic crane manufactured by Magirus Deutz, also a first with Stuttgart in 1957.

“The museum gives a broad overview from the beginnings of fire fighting to technical improvements. With all the exhibits, people can not only visually trace back that history, but also touch it,” Doersam said.

While all information displays are in German, fear not, the exhibits of trucks and equipment don’t require translation.

The Feuerwehr-Museum is located at Murgtalstrasse 60, 70376 Stuttgart and is open every first Saturday and every third Sunday of the month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment.

For English guided tours, call civ. 0711-50660 (Integrierte Leitstelle Stuttgart/Stuttgart Fire Department Control Center).

Children 10 years old or younger are free. For ticket cost and more information, visit here.