Hinterschiffl lies in the heart of the idyllic Mühlviertel in Upper Austria. The afternoons in the square of the village with 1600 inhabitants are generally quiet. The silence is only broken by the quiet sawing and engine sounds from the forests and fields. But when the three-axle Sprinter 6×6 belonging to the local fire service races around the corner with flashing lights, wide eyes and open mouths replace the afternoon peace.
“It all began with the exhibition at the Interschutz in Hannover 2010”, explains Christian Simmel, commander of the Hinterschiffl volunteer fire brigade for the last three years. “The specialists at Oberaigner presented the vehicle as one of five prototypes. Rosenbauer was responsible for the body. Both companies are located nearby. In addition, the personal contact worked well right from the beginning. That is why we chose this fire fighting vehicle and were the first to start using this vehicle at the end of 2011”.
As the first three-axle vehicle with permanent 6×6-drive, the vehicle is a minor sensation. It has put the quiet village in the headlines and attracted interested visitors from all over the world. “Press representatives from many different countries were here and representatives of many different professions and organizations visited us almost every week”, remembers Mr. Simmel. The all-wheel drive fire-fighting vehicle, known as LF-A, not only impresses with its unique appearance but has also proven its capabilities as a practical assistant for the fire service. “The terrain in our district is anything but easy and it is all steep mountains and valleys wherever you look”, says Mr. Simmel, as he looks at the autumn mountain panorama and smiles. “The winters here are rather hard and a lot of remote farming and forestry operations are inaccessible with normal fire-fighting vehicles”.
The Hinterschiffl voluntary fire service has a total of 50 members, 20 of whom have a truck license and can serve as drivers during the exercises and call-outs. The commander himself often gets behind the wheel of the 6×6 Sprinter: “The van handles surprisingly lightly and it is compact and powerful with its 186 hp. Despite its high payload, its center of gravity is distributed compactly across the three axles, providing greater safety when driving, so that you never have to fear sliding even on steep slopes.”
That is why the vehicle accompanies the team on every call-out. “The van is ‘armed to the teeth’ and extremely multifunctional”, explains Mr. Simmel. “In addition to fire-fighting equipment it also has an extensive range of technical equipment and is always the first choice of our three fire-fighting vehicles”. When ready for deployment and with a nine man team the 6×6 weighs seven tonnes – “Every gram of payload is used”, explains Mr. Simmel looking at the perfectly packed cargo area of the fully loaded red Sprinter.
But what actually happens on a callout? “When the telephone rings at the alarm center in Linz then we have to move quickly”, explains Mr. Simmel. “The firemen on-call are notified via mobile phone and where possible leave their workplace immediately and drive to the fire station. The entire team gets changed there and collects the necessary material. This takes five minutes at the most”.
One of Mr. Simmel’s most striking memories is a flood callout in Passau, where the LF-A proved itself as a rescue vehicle: “People were already working at the front when the water suddenly also came from the back. Most of the vehicles stationed there were flooded immediately but we still kept on moving with our 6×6 even when the water was knee deep. This let us pull the other vehicles out of the water. The three-axle Sprinter has also proven itself with forestry accidents. “Other vehicles often have to be parked some distance away from the accident site – the 6×6 always makes it to the destination.”
Photos: © FF Hinterschiffl