Fire stations of the world: Fire Station and Mountain Rescue Building, Mellau, Austria
The small town of Mellau is in the Bregenz Forest in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, part of the district of Bregenz. With a population of only 1 300, it is home to the largest ski area in the Bregenz Forest and one of the largest ski regions in the state of Vorarlberg, attracting thousands of tourists each year. From 1805 to 1814 Mellau belonged to Bavaria but then again to Austria. After the Second World War, the municipality was in the French zone of occupation for 10 years. On 8 September 1870 there was a great fire in Mellau. The church, the school, the rectory and 18 other houses were razed. The year of foundation of the Mellau fire brigade can be assumed to be 1870/1871, due to that fire. At that time there was already a so-called village weir but it also had other tasks, such as national defence against the French, to deal with. There was also a piston pump at that time but nobody could operate it and it too was taken by flames. The Mellau fire brigade was officially founded in 1873. From this time there is a petition to Kaiser Franz-Josef to “officially” allow the Mellau fire brigade. Based on the findings of the great fire of 1870, the Mellau fire brigade was reorganised in 1874. Membership was on a voluntary basis and for the first time a commander was also appointed. The fire brigade relocated to their new building on the right bank of the Mellenbach River in 2005.
1884: Purchase of a hand-operated syringe
How the fire brigade was equipped for the first 10 years is unfortunately no longer known today. What is certain, however, is that a hand-operated syringe was purchased in 1884 and is still there today. At this time, a pull-out ladder was purchased and for the first time every Wehrmann received a uniform, a helmet and a belt. The syringe was supposed to work until 1930.
1931: Purchase of a Breuer motor syringe
In February 1931, the then Kommandant Halbeisen wanted an engine syringe, which was rejected by the community representatives because there was no money in the community coffers. It was not until the fire on April 8, 1931 at Kaspar Feuerstein in Klaus that the municipal fathers started to rethink and a Breuer motorised syringe was purchased. Which helpful device and valuable investment this syringe was, was found in the fire on 19 November 1932 at the estate of Josef Anton Natter in Oberfeld. With their help, it could be prevented from spreading to nearby houses.
1940 until the end of the war: establishment of a ‘women's fire brigade’
From 1940, the fire brigade was generally in bad shape and no logs were written in Mellau from this time. Since almost all men were at war, Mellau, like in other communities, was forced to set up a women's fire brigade, which was disbanded after the end of the war.
1948 to 1988: rebuilding of the Mellau fire brigade
In 1948, when the situation normalised again, the then customer Franz-Josef Kündig set about rebuilding the fire brigade. Under the longstanding leadership of Oskar Zünd, who was commanding the Mellau local fire brigade from 1956 to 1979, the fire brigade was continuously modernised. Respirators, radios found their use and have become indispensable aids. On 1 July 1970, the first fire truck, the Land Rover, was put into service in Mellau. Until then, they always had to rely on private freighters who made their vehicles available for team and equipment transport in an emergency. In 1975 a used Willy-Jeep from the army and a rescue trailer for the fire service was purchased. Two large fires in the early 80s proved that even in Mellau a pumper was needed. Over the next few years, the devices were constantly updated. In the following years, the municipality of Mellau made large financial resources available for clothing and alarming.
1990: Foundation of the fire brigade youth
Back in 1990, two young people, Puchmayr Wolfgang and Kleber Marc, both still active today, turned to the State Fire Brigade Association and asked what they had to do to have a youth fire brigade in Mellau. The state fire brigade inspector then informed the fire brigade commander Mellau, Huber Ludwig and described the situation to him. He took care of the matter and learned that 16 boys in Mellau felt the desire to join a youth fire brigade. One was founded in the same year. The fire brigade youth itself is one of the most important facilities of the fire brigade, as it constantly provides new talent.
1995: Silent alarm is introduced
With the establishment of the rescue and fire department control centre in Mellau, every fireman was quickly equipped with a so-called ‘pager’. The alarm runs through this small device and no matter in which part of Vorarlberg the fire fighter is, he immediately knows where and what has happened.
2000: Acquisition of a fire truck with rescue equipment
Since their Land Rover was already 30 years old, the fire department asked the community to think about getting a replacement. The municipal council unanimously voted for the replacement of a vehicle for the aging Land Rover. In 2000, a fire truck with mountain equipment was handed over to its destination with a fire fighter festival and the holding of the wet competitions.
2005: Relocation to the new fire station
In 2004 the ground-breaking for the new fire station took place. It was built in a record time under the command of Ludwig Zünd and Mayor Hans Dorner and is state-of-the-art. In early summer 2005 the Mellau Fire Department was able to move to the new home. In the future, too, the Mellau local fire brigade will strive to keep the training level up to date so that it is always ready for any event, true to their motto “God in honour, the next in defence.”
The dual-purpose medium-size structure is located on the right bank of the Mellenbach that runs through the loosely clustered village, before it joins the Bregenzerach, the main river of the valley. The design concept reminds of a fluvial terrace and pays homage to the topography; both longitudinal sides of the structure reference the Geländesprung (jump in the terrain) measuring one and a half storeys. This site specific Setzung (ie German for accentuation) integrates the attractive functional building into the fabric of the surrounding settlement.
The access path, parking lots and the vehicle hall are located on the lower level. The gates open toward the entrance piazza along the quayside, while the rear section maintains a distance to the embankment, where daylight enters through a ribbon glazing to light the coatroom and service rooms. The offices of the fire station and the mountain rescue station are accessed along the front corner of the building, where the concrete wall has been slightly recessed, opening up a corridor that repeats the theme of the “Schopf”, the unheated anteroom outfitted with folding windows or shutters, a traditional feature of the “Wälderhaus” (house in the woods). Due to fire protection reasons the large basement of the vehicle hall was outfitted with a wood-cladding, while a timber constructed upper storey was placed atop the structure in a staggered layout. Thus, the structure sports a dynamic form that shelters the north-facing gates of the garage.
On the ground floor the south-east façade of the building faces toward the back, while it is set back on the upper storey and becomes the glazed front, balanced by doors and wooden frames. The upper storey is removed further from the upper road, thus coming into its own. An elegant foot bridge allows unobstructed access also from this side. Training and recreational rooms have been arranged along the hallway behind the glazed front, offering a view of the tall Kanisfluh, the local mountain of Mellau and Schnepfau. For the façade planed silver fir planes were mounted vertically with grooves and combed joints. Firs are common in Vorarlberg’s forest and provide weatherproof wood. The surfaces will weather in a few years and then the functional building will blend into the fabric of the village alongside rustic barns. Its modern architecture does not form a stark contrast but is rather proof of the profound knowledge of regional cultural roots and constitutes a modern interpretation of the theme.
Fire station specifications
Land area: 6 353 m²
Built-up area: 564 m²
Usable area: 830 m² net Gross room/cubature: 4 150 m³
Start of planning: January 2004
Start of construction: June 2004
Completion: June 2005
Construction costs: €1 365 000
Vehicles and equipment
Fire engine TLFA 2000
Chassis: Mercedes Benz 1222 - 220 PS Allrad
Construction: Marte Fahrzeugbau
Pump/performance: Ziegler 2400 litres/min
Year of construction: 1988
In operation: 1988 until today
Acquired under: Kommandant Huber Ludwig
Background information: This vehicle has two HD rapid attack devices.
Fire truck with rescue equipment
The fire truck with mountain equipment was purchased in 2000.
Chassis: Mercedes Atego - 250 PS four-wheel
Construction: Marte Fahrzeugbau
Year of construction: 2000
In operation: 2000 to date
Acquired under: Kommandant Zünd Ludwig
Background: In addition to the standard fire truck equipment with a portable pump and small rescue equipment (grab handle, lifting bag, Rollgliss), this vehicle has a hook ladder, a stepladder, three submersible pumps and a dirty water pump on board.
Crew transport vehicle
The team transport vehicle was purchased in 2006 and financed by the fire department itself.
Chassis: Mercedes Benz Sprinter TDI
Construction: Marte Fahrzeugbau
Year of construction: 2006
In operation: 2006 until today
Acquired under: Kommandant Gridling Simon
Background information: In addition to the standard traffic equipment (trowels, fire service vests) and an emergency backpack, this vehicle also has complete equipment for position management and operations management (including radio table and radio console) on board. The vehicle also has ambient lighting that can be folded out electrically.
The vehicle was used (three years old) by the Lech ski club and was built by the Marte company into an MTF of the latest generation. The fire service itself financed the vehicle itself.
Sources: Frievillige Feuerwehr Mellau, Arch Daily and Wikipedia