Unimog fire-fighting vehicle in Ennepetal is also used for clearing snow.
Opposites are said to attract each other. The Unimog of the fire brigade in Ennepetal, near Wuppertal, fights forest fires in summer and snow masses in winter. That's child's play for the flexible all-rounder that joined the team of fire fighters, led by technical manager Björn Windhövel, in September 2020.
Fast and sprightly.
The town of Ennepetal with its 30,000 inhabitants is situated on the south-eastern edge of the Ruhr region; 58% of its territory is wooded. The new water tender vehicle based on the Unimog U 5023 is stationed in the district of Rüggeberg in a hilly wooded region. Here there are many isolated farms or small settlements, many of which can only be reached via narrow tracks often bordered with cattle fences. Water is provided via wells which are up to 70 m deep and there are hardly any hydrants. So the essential aim in the event of a fire is to reach the scene of the fire with about 3,000 litres of water so as to gain enough time until another source of water can be organised. The Unimog makes that possible.
Some sceptics were amazed.
Björn Windhövel, technical head, Ennepetal fire brigade
The Unimog always finds a way.
Making progress in the wooded parts of Ennepetal is a particular challenge. The roadways are mostly rough forest tracks. Due to a lot of logging in the wake of wood-destroying insects, and also intensive use for the transportation of tree trunks, many of these so-called "skid trails" have been badly damaged. "The only thing that can get through is the Unimog," says Björn Windhövel.
In order that the team could be prepared in the case of an extreme emergency, they carried out intensive practice runs with the new Unimog on a particularly tricky slope. For fire officer Björn Windhövel, giving intensive training to drivers and machinists was extremely important. The focus is on operating the Unimog vehicle's tyre pressure control system: "Some sceptics were amazed at what a difference a few bars less could make to the MPT deep-treaded tyres. The area of tyre on the ground is almost doubled. More cleats press into the forest floor and the traction increases," the expert explains.
Ready when the winter wonderland gets dangerous.
The Unimog U 5023 was given its "baptism of snow" in February 2021 when snow storms swept through North Rhine-Westphalia. Equipped with a 2.80 m KL-V 32 V-type snowplough from Aebi-Schmidt, the Unimog cleared not only snow but also mud and branches out of the way – after heavy precipitation, the rivers in the region often overflow their banks and can do a great deal of damage. It's important to be at hand promptly; because: "How can you reach a settlement if the only access road is blocked?" Björn Windhövel explains the problem. "The municipal works depot doesn't always have the capacity to clear tracks quickly when that amount of damage has to be dealt with."
"In February we had a bitter east wind and accordingly heavy snowfall, and that was its first major operation. The Unimog always drove ahead and cleared a path through the snow drifts for the rescue vehicles," says Björn Windhövel. The attached V-shaped snowplough from Aebi-Schmidt is ideal for the fire brigade's purposes. The two blades can be positioned separately using hydraulics. Thanks to its wedge shape, obstacles like banks of snow can be overcome easily. If used on one side, the material to be cleared is then swept to the right or the left. The V-shaped blades make it easy to sweep debris together.
The Unimog U 5023 is equipped with a dual-circuit hydraulic system for operating front-mounted equipment and also to power the HPC winch. The snowplough can be hooked into the pockets of the mounting plate with a minimum of effort and time.