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Butmir Fire Brigade trains for the fire fight

By 1Lt. Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#105, January 24, 2001

Sarajevo- A phone call is received by Selma Mulalic on the permanently manned Fire Station telephone. The smoke alarm of building 231 is wailing. The four firemen on duty run to their fire truck and depart. They arrive in three minutes. There is fire in the ground floor bathroom, probably caused by the ventilator overheating. While two firemen prepare the hose and connect it to the nearest hydrant, the other two enter the building to assess the situation. Inside the bathroom, an injured and unconscious man is laying on the floor. A second team arrives in another fire truck. Four more firemen follow the previous two, and in a few minutes everything is over. The victim is evacuated on a stretcher, and the fire is put out.
This was not a real emergency. It was an unannounced training exercise, organised by Fire Chief Andreas Bartels, who carefully follows with his watchful eyes his men's performance.
"We train everyday. We must be ready. The difference between arriving in three or four minutes can be critical" says Bartels the man in charge of Butmir Fire Brigade since its creation, in January 1999. Born in Bremerhaven, Germany, in 1965, he has worked for the U.S. Forces in Europe since 1985, and as a fireman since a year later.
The Fire Brigade is located in two different stations. the main one, plus a smaller one on the helipad. A total of 7.158 flight movements last year explains its presence. The brigade totals 27 firemen, all locals from the three entities, and three Amertek fire engines, as well as a van for technical rescue and a fire pump trailer. The Amertek is a Multi Purpose Fire Fighting vehicle, very well known among firemen and one of the best. Suitable for fires in buildings, aircraft and wild land fires, it carries a 2500-litre tank and two pump turrets, as well as other equipment.
"We are prepared to deal with any kind of hazard, chemical or whatever" says Station Chief Training Officer, Namik Klino. "Of course, our main task is take care of fire or accidents in Butmir, but we have others, like the control and maintenance of all the camp's fire alarms and extinguishers. They also stand by for Rajlovac, and the Sarajevo French Air Detachment (Detair). We also support local Fire Brigades when required".
"The Brigade has a dispatcher on 24-hour duty plus two crews of four firemen,” said the Deputy Fire Chief. "Statistics are significant: Last year we attended 37 real fires, 440 false alarms, 329 technical supports, like oil spills, car accidents or others, and 2,111 installations reviews".
The fire alarms are not yet connected to the Fire Station. "That is our next goal" says Chief Bartels. "At present, we have to wait someone's call, unless we hear the alarm. People's behavior is a basic matter". Regarding this he points out: "70% of fires are caused by people's careless behavior. Prevention is the best weapon against fire".


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