Story by Paul Hughes
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs
Stuttgart – On Thursday, host nation firefighters from the city of Böblingen responded to a blaze at the Zweckverband Restmullheizkraftwerk, a residual waste, heat and power plant, located adjacent to the Panzer Local Training Area. The fire started deep inside of the facility.
At 3 p.m., U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Fire Department responded immediately to a request for mutual aid, diverting a truck already on route from Patch to Panzer to assist the host nation.
Members of the 554th MP Company escorted German fire officials to the Stuttgart High School to rendezvous with their garrison counterparts and access the fire hydrant system. Together the two fire departments ran hoses from the fire hydrants at the high school, out of a perimeter gate directly onto Panzer Strasse, and down the road to the blaze.
USAG Stuttgart Fire Chief, Karl Dörsam said the interoperability with the local firefighters is possible due to shared technology.
“We run the same hoses and fittings as host nation firefighters and we have US and German firefighting training,” he said. “It is a seamless cooperation with our German counterparts.”
The fire continued to burn through the night as fire services from Holzgerlingen, Schönaich, Gärtringen, the city of Stuttgart and others joined the fight. Despite the cold, firefighters connected more than two miles of water hoses and used multiple engines to push the water where it was needed most.
More than 24 hours later, the blaze was still burning and according to Dörsam, the problem was that the fire was deep within the plant and not easily accessible. This means more water needs to be used over a larger area, because it’s not feasible to attack the direct source of the blaze, he added.
With the need for additional water, further water sources were identified. Garrison firefighters cut through fencing around a restricted area on the Panzer Local Training Area to pull water from a pond. One of USAG Stuttgart Fire Department’s crash trucks from Stuttgart Army Airfield remained on site throughout the night to act as a pump, freeing up host nation fire trucks to be used elsewhere.
“We have no idea how long it will take to extinguish,” said Dörsam, whose team stayed overnight to make sure the pump was functioning. “I am proud of the team and am excited to see them working in this manner with their host nation counterparts.”
At the peak of the operation, the garrison had nine firefighting personnel on site but were reduced to three teams of three to rotate and sustain the operation. The garrison fire department’s structural crew returned to the Panzer Fire House in the evening, and were ready to respond to the community’s calls for service if needed.
The garrison’s security guards worked with military police in sub-freezing temperatures to secure the areas of the perimeter that were opened for our host-nation fire teams.
Efforts to extinguish the fire are ongoing at the time of this publication.