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Ramstein fire department and local authorities fight fire with interoperability

A German firefighter from Otterberg sprays water on a burning factory in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

A German firefighter from Otterberg sprays water on a burning factory in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. The building had been on fire since approximately 2 p.m. the previous day and the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency services responded at about 4 p.m. to assist with water resupply. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jordan Boyd, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergencies deputy fire chief, speaks with a German firefighter on-scene in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jordan Boyd, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergencies deputy fire chief, speaks with a German firefighter on-scene in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. They discussed how the incoming firetrucks from Ramstein Air Base would access the cordoned off area of the burning automotive plant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

Smoke billows into the sky behind two firetrucks from the Kaiserslautern and Ramstein Air Base fire departments in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

Smoke billows into the sky behind two firetrucks from the Kaiserslautern and Ramstein Air Base fire departments in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. Ramstein assisted the German fire department by providing and transporting more than 6,000 gallons of water from the base to Otterberg in the effort to fight off the burning automotive plant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jackson Bird, 86th Civil Engineer Fire and Emergencies firefighter, speaks with his German counterpart in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jackson Bird, 86th Civil Engineer Fire and Emergencies firefighter, speaks with his German counterpart in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. Bird positioned the vehicle near available hose outlets on the German firetruck to resupply water for the ongoing fire at the automotive plant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jackson Bird, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergencies firefighter, unhooks a water hose from a firetruck in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jackson Bird, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergencies firefighter, unhooks a water hose from a firetruck in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. He prepared for another truck from Ramstein Air Base to arrive on-scene and resupply water to fight the ongoing fire of the automotive plant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

Three firefighters prepare to attach hoses from one truck to the other in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

Three firefighters prepare to attach hoses from one truck to the other in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. Ramstein Air Base fire trucks hold approximately 6,000 gallons of water and were called upon to assist with the automotive plant fire that had been burning for more than 22 hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jackson Bird, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergencies firefighter, supervises the transfer of water from Ramstein Air Base’s fire truck to the German fire truck in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jackson Bird, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergencies firefighter, supervises the transfer of water from Ramstein Air Base’s fire truck to the German fire truck in Otterberg, Germany, March 23, 2020. An automotive factory caught fire the previous day and the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency services responded by providing water resupply to the Kaiserslautern fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

The fire broke out at a factory which manufactured interior carpeting and plastic parts for cars. The burned plastics can be very toxic to the environment and to breathe in, which can be a concern for the residents of Otterberg with coronavirus disease 2019 rising up.

“COVID-19 has many people fearful. In light of that, we want to be responsive to the needs of our off base partners as we have extra coordination, responsibilities, considerations and stressors that are going on right now,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jordan Boyd, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, deputy fire chief for military personnel. “Being able to go off and help, can allay some fears that people aren’t going to be there to help when they need them, they need to know we will always be there to help when they need us.”

Team Ramstein was called upon to assist with water resupply and had 16 personnel support Otterberg fire fighters during this time, said Christoph Stumpf, 86th CES deputy fire chief for local nationals.

Ramstein fire trucks have the capability to hold 6,000 gallons of water. This enabled the turrets to continue flowing in order to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the facility.

“Our trucks were a force multiplier for the resupply effort,” Boyd stated.

Otterberg’s trucks are highly advanced but different from American trucks. The 86th CES trucks can hold three times more water, which makes them essential during a water supply shortage, said Boyd.

There were a total of 160 firefighters, dozens of trucks and other units like medics and police working together to combat this fire.
“By providing mutual aid to our local partners, it helps us to be the ambassadors we need to be in this country representing the United States. We are able to provide a service to them, to help them and provide them with resources they may not have organically,” Boyd explained. “As was the case today, we have guys out there who are providing water resupply because their hydrant system was not able to keep up with the demand from that factory fire.”

Ramstein provides many services to ensure uninterrupted bilateral interoperability. A few services and support include augmenting manning, water resupply, disaster response, community events, and participating in exercises biennially.

“At Ramstein we are actually Kaiserslautern Military Community fire and emergency services. On paper we are assigned to Ramstein Air Base but in reality we cover the whole KMC area,” Boyd added.

Ramstein supports the cities of Kaiserslautern, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Landstuhl and other smaller nearby towns when they require emergency assistance.

“Whenever we are able to engage with the community it helps on multiple levels,” Boyd said. “In this circumstance we were able to help them with a unique capability that we have here, but we also got to expose some of our younger Airmen to real world firefighting on a large scale which they do not get to do a lot on an Air Force installation.”

The large-scale training these fires provide help to secure future combat readiness.

“The cool thing about being able to help our off base partners is we are giving back to the community, I know I have lived in Germany for 11 years and I love this country! It has been great to live amongst my fellow Germans, they have always been very welcoming,” Boyd explained. “The opportunity to give back and provide a service to them is pretty cool and knowing they would do the same in return if we ever needed them; that means something.”

Otterberg has approximately 6,000 inhabitants and about 430 of them are American. The estimated cost of the damage is around €30 million. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.