The German Fire Brigades Asso­ci­a­tion publishes the tech­ni­cal recom­men­da­tion “Luft­fahrzeugein­satz / Aerial Fire­fight­ing Air Oper­a­tions für und durch die Feuer­wehr” under the lead­er­ship of Dr Ulrich Cimolino (BF Düssel­dorf), Stephan Brust (Staatliche Feuer­wehrschule Würzburg), Dr Martin Schmid (Frei­willige Feuer­wehr München) and @fire - Inter­na­tionaler Katas­tro­phen­schutz e.V.

The use of aircraft in fire­fight­ing situ­a­tions such as forest fires requires great safety and knowl­edge on the part of all involved. This starts with the mission and oper­a­tional tactics and contin­ues with the refu­elling with water and fuel and ends with the command and control. In order to struc­ture knowl­edge and expec­ta­tions of the complex topic, the Work­ing Group on Forest Fires in the Tech­ni­cal Commit­tee on Deploy­ment, Extin­guish­ing Agents and Envi­ron­men­tal Protec­tion of the German Fire Brigades Asso­ci­a­tion (DFV) has prepared a tech­ni­cal recommendation.

Under the lead­er­ship of Dr Ulrich Cimolino (Düssel­dorf Fire Brigade), Stephan Brust (Würzburg State Fire Brigade School), Dr Martin Schmid (Munich Volun­teer Fire Brigade) and Jan Südmersen (@fire), a 57-page docu­men­ta­tion of neces­sary prereq­ui­sites, clas­si­fi­ca­tions and processes was produced. “Extremely differ­ent knowl­edge and expec­ta­tions about the use of aircraft unnec­es­sar­ily compli­cate the joint oper­a­tion or even call its success into ques­tion,” Dr Ulrich Cimolino, chair of the forest fire work­ing group, explains the back­ground. The publi­ca­tion includes the results of an inter­na­tional @fire work­shop on forest fire­fight­ing using aircraft with the partic­i­pa­tion of the DFV’s Forest Fire Work­ing Group, which also involved stake­hold­ers from fire brigades, ministries and state fire­fight­ing schools as well as a wide range of agen­cies (police forces of the German states).
Länder, Federal Police, Federal Armed Forces and private indi­vid­u­als) as well as pilots of aircraft had participated.

“For safe coop­er­a­tion in the use of aircraft, it is essen­tial to speak a common language - also tech­ni­cally!” explains DFV Vice Pres­i­dent Karl-Heinz Frank, who is respon­si­ble for the work­ing group. “All those involved must be clear about proce­dures, for exam­ple in commu­ni­ca­tion or the organ­i­sa­tion of the oper­a­tion section. This tech­ni­cal recom­men­da­tion makes an impor­tant contri­bu­tion to the struc­tur­ing of oper­a­tional proce­dures. It not only offers a good intro­duc­tion to the topic, but also presents concrete proce­dures and contains templates, for exam­ple, for record­ing heli­copters in action,” he explains.

A summary of the publi­ca­tion is published here. The complete techni­cal recom­men­da­tion “Aircraft Operations/Aerial Fire­fight­ing Air Oper­a­tions for and by the Fire Service” is avail­able online at www​.feuer​wehrver​band​.de/​f​a​c​h​l​i​c​h​e​s​/​p​u​b​l​i​k​a​t​i​o​n​e​n​/​f​a​c​h​e​m​p​f​e​h​l​u​n​g​en/.

Vege­ta­tion fires in partic­u­lar require the deploy­ment of vari­ous units, resources and organ­i­sa­tions in the sense of an “oper­a­tion of combined forces”. This also means that in these oper­a­tions, aircraft are only one of many means of inter­ven­tion and support fire­fight­ing, but funda­men­tally cannot be success­ful on their own. However, simi­lar situ­a­tions can also occur in other natural or natural-influ­enced dynamic area situ­a­tions, such as those that can be typi­cal for heavy rain­fall events or flood disas­ters. Depend­ing on the task and avail­abil­ity, drones, heli­copters or fixed-wing aircraft are used for this purpose.

The use of aircraft in non-police emer­gency response is inter­na­tion­ally referred to as Aerial Fire­fight­ing or Air Oper­a­tions, abbre­vi­ated to AirOps.
It encom­passes much more than just aerial firefighting.

During deploy­ment, support or assis­tance may also come from abroad or, for exam­ple, from friendly foreign troops in Germany. English tech­ni­cal terms in this context should there­fore be known. If neces­sary, suffi­cient linguis­ti­cally compe­tent emer­gency person­nel may also have to be deployed for commu­ni­ca­tion purposes. This is the case at the latest when the request has also been issued to foreign-language units (for exam­ple, units from the EU Civil Protec­tion or rescEU proce­dures) or these are already deployed in the area close to the border (for exam­ple, CH-47 of the Dutch Air Force) or due to their own compe­tences (for exam­ple, “Black­hawk”, “Apache”, CH-47 or simi­lar in the event of a fire on US-used mili­tary train­ing areas).

In addi­tion to recon­nais­sance or aerial photog­ra­phy with aircraft, it is possi­ble to use aerial photographs for posi­tion infor­ma­tion from remote sens­ing, for exam­ple from satel­lites. If neces­sary, this data can be made avail­able via the control centres by the Centre for Satel­lite Based Crisis Commu­ni­ca­tion (ZKI) at the German Aero­space Centre (DLR).

Depend­ing on the extent of the aircraft deploy­ment, a more or less large accom­pa­ny­ing effort has to be made. To make this easier to plan, the deploy­ment is divided into stages depend­ing on the type and number of aircraft deployed.

In order to be able to plan and commu­ni­cate more easily and clearly in oper­a­tions, aircraft must be clearly iden­ti­fi­able in their oper­a­tional value. For this they will

The tech­ni­cal recom­men­da­tion has the following
Points on content:

  • Prologue
  • Intro­duc­tion,
  • Use of aircraft with multi­ple sub-items: 
    • Inci­dent command (with unit brief­ing, map/location infor­ma­tion and anatomy of vege­ta­tion fires),
    • Commu­ni­ca­tion,
    • Safe coop­er­a­tion in oper­a­tions: air - ground (with safe flight oper­a­tions on the ground as well as safety at the
      ground during aerial fire­fight­ing operations),
    • Lead­er­ship of the “Air” oper­a­tional section
    • Lead­er­ship in the air,
    • Video, image and WBC data,
    • Fire-fight­ing oper­a­tion (with direct fire-fight­ing oper­a­tion, types of drop­ping [influ­ence of flight and drop­ping height, drop­ping tech­nique, use of ALB with different
      load lift­ing devices, recom­men­da­tions for drop types], extin­guish­ing agents, train­ing of pilots and aircraft crews),
    • Selec­tion of the aircraft,
    • Require­ment (release, routes, costs),
    • Head of Oper­a­tions Air,
    • Flight oper­a­tions,
  • Cate­gori­sa­tion of aircraft: 
    • Levels of oper­a­tion in rela­tion to aircraft,
    • Cate­gori­sa­tion of aircraft (with unmanned aerial systems (“drones”), heli­copters and fixed-wing aircraft)
  • Outlook and further developments,
  • Attach­ment:
    • Glos­sary,
    • Forms (with record­ing of heli­copters and heli­copters for rescue/rescue oper­a­tions or patient transport),
  • Refer­ences.

The tech­ni­cal recom­men­da­tion was prepared with the expert support of @fire, the State Fire Brigade School Würzburg and Alexan­der Otte (oper­a­tional pilot on Airbus Heli­copters AS 332 “Super Puma”). This publi­ca­tion has been prepared to the best of our knowl­edge and with the utmost care and has been reviewed by the respon­si­ble depart­ments and the DFV Exec­u­tive Commit­tee. However, liabil­ity on the part of the authors or the German Fire Brigades Asso­ci­a­tion is funda­men­tally excluded.