In his job at KUKA, Christoph Hunglinger only rarely has to put out fires, much more so in his off time. Christoph Hunglinger has a desk job. As part of the design execution team for Body Structures at KUKA Systems in Augsburg, he serves as the link between outside design firms, the in-house design department, assembly and the customer, checking design drawings for dimensional accuracy, function and logical processes. He also helps provide service support. Together with a colleague, he provides regular training on CATIA, a CAD program for 3D drawings. So why did he allow himself to be featured as a firefighter? Hunglinger is currently in training to become a fire engineer for the Volunteer Fire Department in the Augsburg district of Pfersee. On the KUKA premises, or, more precisely, the site of the former military tank test track, a driving lesson was organized to teach the trainees how to drive firetrucks in reverse, maneuver around obstacles or drive on command.
50 respones a year
Fire safety is a community obligation. That’s why Augsburg municipal fire department is there “The municipal fi re department is supported by volunteer fire departments in the city districts, which also helps reduce response time, in other words, the amount of time before the fire department arrives on-site,” explains Hunglinger. Augsburg has seven such volunteer fire departments. Hunglinger joined the junior fire brigade at the age of 16 and has been involved with them ever since. As a so-called smoke diver, with backup from another colleague, he seeks out the source of the fire. This involves special challenges. A smoke diver must be very fit and undergo regular examinations and tests. But the fire department doesn’t just go where there’s a fire. During severe weather emergencies, for example, only the volunteer fire departments are alerted; the municipal fire department comes when animals are in danger, there’s an oil spill on the road or doors must be busted open. In accident or fire cases, both forces are notified. The Pfersee volunteers are called into action by a silent alarm, typically between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or on weekends. Only in special cases, such as if a bomb from World War II is found along the Lech river, will a daytime alarm be triggered. The response crew consists of up to eight firefighters per vehicle, including at least one team leader, one engineer and, in the case of a fire, at least two but preferably four smoke divers and other active members of the department. Because two firefighters always go in first, the rescue team behind them must have at least twice as many people. “‘Real’ fires like the kind you often see in movies have thankfully become rare,” says Hunglinger. “We’re very happy about that. Apartments and houses today are almost all equipped with smoke alarms. Most of the time, we are responding to reports of smoke.” The Pfersee volunteer fire department deploys about 50 times a year.
Practice makes perfect
Every two weeks, the team practices putting out fires, performing rescues or emergency vehicle driving. Much of this is now routine for Hunglinger given his many years of service, but he must still undergo regular training to make sure he’s ready in an emergency. The technical requirements and time commitment have increased considerably as fire departments deal with changes. The equipment has become more demanding. That’s why Hunglinger is currently undergoing advanced training in firetruck driving. He’s learning, for instance, exactly how to work the pump or how other firefighting devices function. He’s also studying for his engineer’s license for large firetrucks – the Pfersee volunteer department has three. As a fire engineer, he’s not often inside the danger zone, but as a smoke diver, he’ll be fulfilling a double role. However, he’s not interested in climbing further up the chain of command. After all, he’s also a drill leader and instructor for ski mountaineering and mountain tours for the Alpine Club, where he’s equally as active. Nevertheless, the fire department takes up a lot of his free time, he says. “That’s precisely why I love the fact that we were able to do the training on KUKA premises.”