When there is a fire, it has to be done quickly. This is why a 32-meter-long automatic turntable ladder in accordance with DIN 14043 (DLAK 23/12) takes a maximum of 140 seconds from arrival at the scene of action to the start of the rescue operation. When the lifting device mounted on a truck chassis has stopped after an alarm run at up to 100 km / h, the side supports are extended and the basket attached to the front of the ladder pool is lowered to floor level. Once the emergency services have got on, hydraulic cylinders raise the ladder. At the same time, the welded steel elements slide apart up to 30 meters in length, and the entire system is rotated in order to reach the selected point with the tip of the ladder.
The term “automatic” in the standard last updated in 2014 stands for the fact that these various movements are carried out at the same time. Seen from the ground, this is an impressive spectacle, but if the layman is in the basket himself, then the synchronous erecting, extending and turning causes a slightly queasy feeling in the stomach, while people on the ground and buildings are getting smaller and smaller.
The idea of using free-standing mechanical ladders for fire brigade work dates back to the 19th century. Almost 150 years ago the fire brigade commander Conrad Dietrich Magirus developed a ladder with a 14 meter rise in Ulm. Today Magirus Brandschutztechnik GmbH belongs to the CNH Industrial group and builds fire fighting vehicles of various types. The turntable ladder is still “the flagship” in the product range, says Magirus sales manager Xavier Moreau. Every year around 250 ladders from 27 to 68 meters in length are built in Ulm for customers all over the world.
The DLAK 23/12 is the standard in the German market. The numbers stand for 23 meters working height with a twelve meter radius (the so-called nominal range); fully extended, the ladder is around 30 meters long. Today, the flexibility of use is usually extended by an articulated arm at the top of the ladder that carries the basket. In this way, in contrast to ladders that can only be extended linearly, points can also be reached that are beyond obstacles such as a roof ridge. “Up and over” is the procedure when the tip of the ladder with the basket is folded down behind the barrier.
The voluntary fire brigade in Rüsselsheim am Main has now put such a DLAK 23/12 into service. Planning began in 2019, delivery was in June 2021. The new vehicle replaces a predecessor from 1993 – also built by Magirus. Continuity makes the firefighters’ work easier because the operation of the rescue technology follows a similar logic over longer periods of time. However, thorough training of the fire fighters is necessary before the new vehicle can be deployed for the first time. The manufacturer often takes on this qualification with courses at the fire brigade on site – this is also the case in Rüsselsheim. In addition, there is training as a turntable ladder machinist in the state fire brigade school in Kassel in Hesse. Of the 250 firefighters in the Rüsselsheim fire department, all of the around 40 full-time workers and around 20 volunteer firefighters can operate the turntable ladder.
Around 160 copies annually
The price of a DLAK 23/12 is around 700,000 euros. Turntable ladders are also considered to be the most expensive standard fire fighting vehicles. Around 160 copies are purchased in Germany every year. As all-purpose talents, they are irreplaceable for professional fire departments and larger volunteer fire departments. Above all, they secure the second escape route in the event of a fire in buildings below the border with the high-rise building (where the highest floor is 22 meters or more above the outer surface).
For some years now, the ladders have been called in more and more often to rescue patients from the upper floors. This was made possible by the further technical development of the baskets on which a stretcher can be attached and whose load-bearing capacity is now often sufficient for two emergency services and a heavy patient. “500 kilograms of load capacity in the basket are standard today,” confirms Michael Kristeller from Rosenbauer in Karlsruhe. The Austrian fire equipment manufacturer took over the traditional company Metz in 1998 and has been building turntable ladders under the Rosenbauer brand for the world market in the old Baden residential city since 2015.