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On a high
Many people are not aware that such a thing exists – fire service cranes from Liebherr. In fact, they are mobile cranes operated by fire services. The special cranes, which are generally finished in red paint, wait to go into action in the giant garages at fire stations between painstakingly positioned fire fighting and turntable ladder vehicles. And they have a wide range of different designs. The crane vehicles have a range of different tasks depending on their location and the specific situations in their area of action. That means that these largest and heaviest vehicles for fire services all have bespoke equipment to suit their specific needs. Some of the cranes fitted with blue lights and horns are even able to fight fires from the very tip of their telescopic booms.
It all started with the fire service in Kiel. The very first fire service crane manufactured by Liebherr entered service in this German city on the Baltic Sea in 1974. We have supplied our powerful fire service cranes to Vienna and Paris, Budapest, Barcelona and Athens, to name but a few of the larger cities. In total, since then we have handed over 113 of these special vehicles to fire service personnel throughout Europe. And now more than ever, we are the perfect partner for any fire service wishing to purchase its own mobile crane.
The city of Heilbronn, in the south of Germany just like our production site in Ehingen, decided to purchase a new mobile crane for its large fire station four years ago. Its old crane, a Liebherr LTM 1050-4, had become slightly outdated after thirty years of service. After issuing a public tender throughout Europe, Liebherr won the order to manufacture the special vehicle. “Our new LTM 1070-4.2 really is a quantum leap forward compared to its predecessor”, is how Markus Widmann describes the modern mobile crane which features a wide range of options. Widmann is manager of the Technical Department at Heilbronn Emergency Services and was therefore directly involved in the procurement process for the new vehicle. He and his colleagues were kind enough to allow us to attend some of their exercises with “our” fire service crane in the Heilbronn area and look over the shoulders of the professional firemen.
Fire fighting highlights – special camera and extinguishing monitor
Every mobile crane which we manufacture for fire services is crammed with special equipment. The features extend from the mandatory acoustic and optical signalling systems and important accessories such as tow bars, a load traverse on the front and a powerful winch at the rear of the vehicle to enable the safe recovery of vehicles which have been involved in accidents. But we had two special requests from the firemen in Heilbronn as well – a powerful high resolution camera with a large zoom function and a thermal imaging function for wireless image transfer that can be installed at the top of the boom when required.
Markus Widmann continues: “That enables us to obtain aerial photographs of large fires which will help us to assess the situation and prevent more damage. As far as I know, a camera system of this type has never been installed on a fire service crane. A special bracket had to be designed and manufactured by Liebherr for it. Working with them on this was really very good.”
Another highlight of the Heilbronn crane is its extinguishing monitor. This remote-controlled water monitor, which can be used to support fire fighting work efficiently from a great height, is only installed on a select few fire service cranes. Generally, it is the situation in the local area which decides whether it is necessary. “We have lots of industrial sites and a few chemical companies around here”, says fireman and crane operator Steffen Haas. “The 50 metre telescopic boom on the crane enables us to reach great heights which in turn means an enormous range. And we can deliver massive quantities of water over that range.” An enormous 4,000 litres of fire fighting water per minute can be pumped through the device by a fire fighting vehicle and directed with a variable spray pattern.
Crane operators and firemen
In contrast to using a turntable ladder, the personnel are not at risk from smoke and potentially toxic gases as the extinguisher monitor can be controlled remotely from a safe distance. “This high water capacity and the remote control for the water monitor are a massive benefit for us.”
The complete fire fighting system can be installed extremely quickly for an exercise or in a real emergency. The well trained personnel need just around ten minutes to complete the work. The folding jib carried on the vehicle simply has to be attached to the pulley head and the water monitor can then be installed on it. Up to three hoses are raised with the crane boom with the help of loops positioned along the boom. Training is a high priority for the fire service crane operators to ensure that everything can be completed quickly and smoothly in an emergency. “We practise every week with the crane. We conduct joint exercises and exchange experience with other teams, who also have a fire service crane”, adds Steffen Haas, who is also responsible for training the team. Around one-quarter of the Heilbronn fire service team, which numbers just over one hundred in total, are trained crane operators and able to control the new vehicle and its functions.
There are always obstacles of one kind or another
When the new LTM 1070-4.2 fire service crane is on its way to an emergency with its blue lights flashing and siren blaring, it is always followed by another vehicle carrying a fully laden container. This roll-off container is then positioned close to the crane and contains tools, fire fighting equipment and some special equipment for specific jobs. It carries everything from hoses and fastening equipment to a large cage, with space for up to ten people for rescuing accident victims. It even contains a diesel-powered backup generator in case the crane’s electronics system fail. “In the four years since we bought the crane, we have carried out several jobs with it”, continues Steffen Haas. “We always attend accidents involving trucks just in case.” But rescuing people using the cage, recovering vehicle from open water and the use of the special camera for a major fire in the old town are also among the jobs that the still relatively new fire service crane has completed to date.
“The new LTM 1070-4.2 has some significant advantages over its predecessor, although that one was always extremely reliable”, says the experienced fireman. “We now have much greater safety reserves, particularly as a result of VarioBase®, the system for supporting the crane flexibly, which enables us to extend the outriggers quickly and to different lengths. It is a fantastic innovation, because in constricted urban areas with parked cars, there are always obstacles of one kind or another.”
This article was published in the UpLoad magazine 02 | 2022.