sfor-logo.gif (7931 bytes) sforonline.jpg (10701 bytes)

newhome.GIF (1414 bytes)

newindex.GIF (2366 bytes)

newlinks.GIF (2138 bytes)

SFOR Fire Department, prevention and intervention

By Capt. Jesus Campuzano
First published in
SFOR Informer #71, 29 Sept, 1999.

Sarajevo - With its main station placed in one of the old aircraft shelters in the new Butmir Camp, the Fire and Emergency Service started its operational life last April 15. Its primary mission is extinguishing any fire that could happen in any of the HQ SFOR compounds in the Sarajevo Area. The Fire Brigade is made up of twenty-seven local civilians, men and women, from all the entities, Bosniacs, Bosnian-Croats, and Bosnian-Serbs, led by Andreas Bartels, a German fireman. "In my fifteen years experience, I have never had a better crew. They are very professional and highly motivated. We have people from three different ethnic groups, and have no problem with that," said Bartels.

This crew is the result of a hard selection process. Language skills and previous fire training were the initial conditions. After an exam, with about ninety candidates, thirty-five were selected to take a three months training course including sports, theoretical classes and practice, with Austrian fire fighters as instructors. At the end, only twenty-seven overcame the selection process, including two firewomen.

To carry out their mission, the Fire Brigade counts three US Army standard fire trucks coming from Germany, a fire equipment trailer that allows them to pump water from rivers, ponds or other sources. They also have all the individual equipment such as protection clothes and breathers. One of the fire trucks is assigned to Ilidza, where a crew is on alert for every operation, take-off or landing at the helipad.

Apart from their primary mission of fighting fire, the Fire Brigade has other tasks such as inspecting compounds and supervising new building projects in relation to fire safety. "One of our first tasks here was to review the Butmir 2000 project. Every accommodation room, as well as the corridors has smoke detectors. All the buildings meet the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) code for life safety," explained Bartels. They are also ready to provide technical assistance. "That goes from rescuing people trapped in a car accident to environment protection such as removing car oil from the ground before it leaks in," said Bartels. Fire prevention is another target of the Fire Brigade, according to Bartels: "The best way to fight fire is avoid it by educating people, so we are thinking about including a short brief on basic fire safety rules in the welcome briefing for HQ personnel".

Since the Fire Department became operational, it has dealt with 61 false fire alarms, 9 real ones and 10 fire incidents. It has provided technical assistance 151 times, and supported more than a thousand helicopter operations at the Ilidza helipad. They also man an emergency phone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. "They can speak English, German and Serbo-Croat. If someone finds a fire or has an emergency they should dial IPN 911 and report the location, type of incident, name and telephone (if it is possible). Then evacuate the building and go to the nearest fire assembly point," said Bartels.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Germany