Dirk Röse

Water on!

Fire bri­ga­des drill emer­gen­cy respon­se on peat fields

Hea­vy machine­ry and peat are bur­ning, emer­gen­cy vehi­cles have no access: fire ser­vices in cen­tral Ems­land simu­la­ted ‘the real thing’ on a Klasmann-Deilmann pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny extrac­tion site.

The light but steady rain did not let up: unin­ter­rup­ted drizz­le fell from ear­ly Satur­day morning into the after­noon. For a short while it see­med the exer­cise might be cal­led off: a lar­ge-sca­le fire­figh­t­ing drill in the rain? Wet, sti­cky, slip­pe­ry peat ins­tead of dus­ty par­ti­cles in scor­ching heat? But then the respon­ders in char­ge loo­ked at one ano­t­her and the ver­dict was unani­mous: let’s go ahead with this!

The sce­n­a­rio was rea­listic: a hot, dry sum­mer incre­a­ses the risk of a bla­ze. Dry peat gets into an excavator’s engi­ne com­part­ment and cat­ches fire. Using a fire extin­guis­her, the exca­va­tor ope­ra­tor tri­es to tack­le and con­tain the bla­ze but it’s no good, the fla­mes are sprea­ding; now they’re taking hold of the peat field its­elf; and now stray sparks have reached the sto­rage stacks and they catch fire too.

The fire ser­vices are rapidly aler­ted and the first fire­figh­t­ing unit is soon at the sce­ne. Howe­ver, the bur­ning exca­va­tor is nowhe­re near the paved roads but in the midd­le of the peat extrac­tion pit. The emer­gen­cy vehi­cles can’t reach it. Now pro­ce­du­ral fami­lia­ri­ty kicks in, as the fire bri­ga­de has dril­led this count­less times. Hoses stret­ching several hund­red metres have to be unrol­led, gene­ra­tors trans­por­ted into the field and the water tanks con­nec­ted up. In the mean­ti­me, the fire has spread fur­ther, addi­tio­nal fire bri­ga­des are cal­led out, and befo­re long more and more fire­figh­ters from the sur­roun­ding com­mu­nities are at the sce­ne. For­tu­n­a­te­ly, it’s not long befo­re the all-clear is given: the bla­ze is under con­trol and the exca­va­tor fire has alrea­dy been put out.

So as to be ide­al­ly pre­pa­red for this or a simi­lar sce­n­a­rio, Klasmann-Deilmann’s pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Pro­duk­ti­ons­ge­sell­schaft Süd recent­ly joi­ned for­ces with fire ser­vices from the sur­roun­ding area to sta­ge an emer­gen­cy drill.

Peat­land Ope­ra­ti­ons Super­vi­sor Heinz Post met the com­pe­tent fire bri­ga­de (the Groß Hese­pe unit) at the agreed mee­ting place on the edge of the nort­hern field. They then all pro­cee­ded onto the site via the paved roads. Die­ter Ein­haus, the respon­ding offi­cer in char­ge, deci­ded that the fol­lowing were also necessa­ry and had them cal­led out: water ten­ders from Oster­b­rock and Schö­ninghs­dorf, a fire engi­ne from Twist, and the com­mand vehi­cle from Oster­b­rock. Soon the­re were more than 40 respon­ders at the sce­ne. Klasmann-Deilmann pro­vi­ded a trac­tor equip­ped for peat field ope­ra­ti­on, which towed a ‘sledge’ – loa­ded up with fireho­ses, gene­ra­tors and other necessa­ry equip­ment – right out into the peat extrac­tion pit. After a remar­kab­ly short time, the first water was alrea­dy flowing through the hoses and ope­ra­ti­ons to put out the ima­gi­na­ry fire began. An addi­tio­nal 8,000 litres of water for fire­figh­t­ing were trans­por­ted onto the site by rail tanker.

The fire ser­vices also expe­ri­en­ced one of the com­mon peat field pit­falls: one of the fire engi­nes left the paved road and sank into the peat. But the trac­tor was soon the­re to pull it out.

By around noon, the exer­cise had been suc­cess­ful­ly com­ple­ted and the equip­ment gathe­red tog­e­ther, clea­ned and sto­wed away. Pre­sent for the sub­se­quent debrie­fing were Peat­land Ope­ra­ti­ons Super­vi­sor Heinz Post, Chris­toph Wall­mey­er (Pro­cu­re­ment Ser­vices), respon­ding offi­cer in char­ge Die­ter Ein­haus, Heinz Lüb­bers (fire safe­ty inspec­tor at the Ems­land muni­ci­pal aut­ho­ri­ty), local fire chief Heinz Grü­ter, head of sec­tion Wolf­gang Vel­trup and muni­ci­pal fire chief Gün­ter Kei­ser. Micha­el Per­schl, Mana­ging Direc­tor of Pro­duk­ti­ons­ge­sell­schaft Süd, thank­ed each crew mem­ber of the par­ti­ci­pa­ting fire ser­vices for their com­mit­ted and suc­cess­ful response.

Alt­hough we hope for the best – in other words, that the ‘real thing’ never hap­pens – it’s important for us to pre­pa­re for the worst,” says Micha­el Per­schl. “We learn from one ano­t­her, we fami­lia­ri­se our­sel­ves with the deman­ds of the site and with everyone’s roles, and we iden­ti­fy cri­ti­cal pro­ce­du­ral aspects to work on – we get bet­ter each time. It’s good to know that the­se fire ser­vices are always clo­se at hand.”

What promp­ted this fire exer­cise was two unusual­ly dry sum­mers in suc­ces­si­on. In the sum­mer of 2018, the con­di­ti­ons resul­ted in an exten­si­ve peat­land bla­ze affec­ting a mili­ta­ry tech­ni­cal site in the ‘Tin­ner Dose’ area near Mep­pen. And, in 2019, fires bro­ke out on sites in Lit­hua­nia and at a peat­land area (‘Ester­we­ger Dose’) under restoration.