What’s that smell?
|Baiersdorf–Monday, March 26th|
Oh no! I had turned the stove on full blast and went back to my computer. I forgot all about my husband’s dinner! Grey smoke billows up the stairway. My eyes sting as I run down the steps. I grab a big towel from the bathroom, hold it in front of my nose and peek around the doorway into the kitchen. Flames shoot out of the hot pot and bend along the ceiling.
What do I do now? I mean, if I could remember my name and still speak coherently. Well, grab the phone and get out of the house. Don’t try to save any of my stuff except the dog. Start thinking about one thing I will never be able to replace—the baby pictures.
A fire will engulf the room in about 45 seconds. Smoke will kill a man long before the flames would.
Dial 112 and try to breathe. Name, address, nature of the emergency. The fire whistle on top of the local firehouse blows and after a minute or two I hear the engine coming. Does it really happen this fast? I am no longer alone. The yard is teeming with so many men. I will remember this the next time I get lonely.
Most likely, if I am anywhere in Germany, these are volunteers. Only 100 professional fire departments are in operation, usually in cities of 100,000 inhabitants and over. 24,000 volunteer fire departments exist today with over one million members. Like anything else in Germany, there are reams of laws dealing with setting up and maintaining a fire department. No, not just anyone can start one up because they feel like it! Regulating firefighting has a history that goes back to Roman times.
Some cities join the fire departments to their civil maintenance departments, so the premises are often manned. Large companies, like Siemens, INA/Schaeffler and the German army have their own internal fire brigades, 900 in all. We even have a fire brigade here at Höfner Guitars!
Wood-built houses are rare in southern Germany. That means that fire is rarer. I won’t say rare, because it happens. Some may say that the Höfner Fire Brigade is just hanging out, doing some löschen, (the German verb löschen means to extinguish. It also means to quench. We have a joke around the fire brigade here, that all we do is extinguish. Or quench. Thirst. Get it?) This is not the case. Just this week they were called out to the above-illustrated fire.
These are men and women who sacrifice their free time to offer the community a desperately-needed service. And service is paid in a feeling of belonging to the community and boy, do they throw a great party.
Gotta go to Feuerwehr training! Have a great weekend!