KÖNIGSWINTER The fact that cars of the Königswinter fire brigade serve as barriers during carnival caused criticism: "This could be a hindrance in the event of a fire“, it is said. The city defends its concept, but is already looking for alternatives.
Since the attacks in Barcelona and Berlin, fire engines have been used as barriers in the carnival processions to protect the crowds from possible terrorism attacks. For example in the old town, in Oberpleis, Niederdollendorf or Heisterbacherrott/Thomasberg, the two vehicles are parked on the main street at the level of Generalkonsul-von-Weiß-Straße and Steinmetzstraße.
Bad Honnef handles the problem differently. According to the city, heavy vehicles of the building and depot department are used there. This measure is part of the safety concept for the carnival trains in the valley and on the mountain.
A firefighter from Königswinter, who has been doing voluntary service for more than 30 years and does not want to be mentioned by name, is concerned that in an emergency the fire protection service cover could suffer due to the other deployment of the fire brigade.
Anonymous critic fears disadvantages
"According to an internal paper, fire-fighting vehicles are not available even in the event of fire or accident during the period of the parade protection. In this case, another fire brigade from another district must be deployed. In case of a call-out the response time can sometimes be longer because a longer journey has to be made," he wrote to the GA.
Upon request, the city confirms that fire-fighting vehicles are used at strategic locations during carnival processions as anti-terrorism barriers. However, only vehicles that were not directly needed to ensure a general protection in the city area would be used. These include special vehicles such as a water transport vehicle or an equipment vehicle.
"This means that the quality of fire protection and technical assistance will not be impaired by the provision of anti-terrorism barriers. Even during the carnival processions, the population of Königswinter can be sure that the fire brigade will be available with the usual efficiency", says the spokesperson for the administration.
Fire chief: "Fire protection is more important than terror defence“
City fire inspector Michael Bungarz also stresses that fire protection is of course guaranteed. "In the event of a fire, we neglect the danger of a terrorist attack. Fire protection comes first.“
Nor would it be right that firefighters from neighbouring towns have to respond because there are no vehicles or personnel available. "The fire-fighting vehicles used as a defence against terrorism will get moved if there is a fire. There’s even an advantage as the reaction time is shorter," says Bungarz. Otherwise, it is common for the extinguishing units to be called in from neighbouring towns during major fire missions.
The firefighter, who does not want to be named, sees another problem. He asks why the most expensive and difficult to replace vehicles of a municipality are used and not simple dump trucks or other vehicles. "It is certainly easier to borrow a dump truck than an emergency fire engine or a turntable ladder," he says.
The administration countered that the construction depot in Königswinter does not have enough large vehicles. There are also no such large vehicles in other areas of the city administration.
"Fire-fighting vehicles are basically suitable, in terms of their weight and size, for use as anti-terrorism barriers. It can be assumed that they represent an effective protection against potential attacks with the help of motor vehicles, which are misused as means of crime. Above all, it can be assumed that the installation of the vehicles already excludes potential attacks from the outset," the city said.
Are firemen(weirmen) "vicarious agents" of the city?
The firefighter, who does not want to read his name in the newspaper, is also disturbed by the fact that the city uses the firefighters as "vicarious agents", even if there is some money for them. Also from the ranks of the fire brigade it could be heard discussed that one should work as "cheap labourer" or "idiot" for the city.
In view of the steadily increasing number of assignments in recent years, this service should certainly be dealt with by the municipal building yard. What was initially announced as a provisional measure will now be carried out in the third year on the back of the fire brigade.
Here, too, the city points out that it is by no means unusual to integrate fire brigade units in this way. Other municipalities would sometimes do the same. "The volunteer fire-brigade since forever shaped a firm component of parish life. It is therefore an essential cornerstone of the local community.“
Against this background, it goes without saying that the fire brigade is happy to support the carnival clubs in organising and carrying out their parades. City fire inspector Bungarz can confirm this. "In response to my mail, comrades have contacted me within only one hour showing who was willing to serve in these places during carnival. We always find people who are not so carnival-savvy.“
However, Bungarz also sees that the terror defense is not an original task of the fire department. "We are talking to the city. We’re looking for other solutions." This was confirmed by the administration. "For some time now, alternatives have been sought to relieve the burden on the fire brigade. The people responsible are hopeful that alternative solutions will be available in the course of this year".
(Original text: Hansjürgen Melzer, Translation: Mareike Graepel)