Professional fire brigade

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Signet of the fire brigade in Germany

A professional fire brigade (abbr .: BF ) is a fire brigade department of a municipality, which as a rule only consists of civil servants or permanent employees of the fire brigade technical service. The list of German cities with a professional fire service provides an overview of all municipal professional fire departments in Germany .

Setting up a professional fire brigade

Fire and rescue station 1 of the
Frankfurt am Main professional fire brigade

In Germany it is regulated in the fire protection laws of the individual federal states when a professional fire brigade must be set up. The provision of a professional fire brigade does not release the municipality in most federal states from setting up a voluntary fire brigade (e.g. Saxony-Anhalt ). The obligation of a municipality to maintain a professional fire brigade is based either on the number of inhabitants or the status of a city (e.g. district-free city in North Rhine-Westphalia ). In some federal states there is a limit of 100,000 inhabitants (e.g. in Hesse , Thuringia and Baden-Württemberg). However, some cities also have a professional fire brigade, although they are not legally obliged to do so (e.g. Gießen , Lünen , Eisenach , Minden , Cuxhaven or Iserlohn ).

Fire brigades with full-time workers who are not professional fire brigades are accordingly referred to as " Voluntary fire brigades with full-time workers". The individual state laws regulate their establishment (e.g. large and medium-sized cities in North Rhine-Westphalia). This type of fire service is common in the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria , Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein . This model is completely unknown in some other federal states (e.g. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania ).

In Baden-Württemberg, the designation “volunteer fire brigade” applies if the fire brigade consists of voluntary departments, which can also include full-time workers. If an operations department of the professional fire brigade or an operations department with full-time staff is set up, it is called "fire brigade".

In the case of fire brigades that employ employed equipment attendants, these are usually not full-time fire fighters, but employees of the municipality. In the event of an emergency, they are then released from work as volunteer firefighters like normal emergency services.

In a city with a professional fire brigade, the leader is usually also responsible for the performance level of the volunteer fire brigade.

The fire protection departments of the larger airports and large industrial plants are not professional fire departments , but plant fire departments (arranged or recognized by the responsible regional council ) or company fire departments . These private fire brigades are not part of the public fire brigades and (with a few exceptions) only move out to work on the respective factory or airport premises. Such fire brigades can be made up of part-time and full-time workers who have the same or even more extensive training as members of public fire brigades.

In addition to the organizational forms already mentioned, in rare cases there are compulsory fire brigades , which are basically organized like volunteer fire brigades, but the members are obliged to serve.


In Germany, the professional fire brigades are the offices of the respective cities that oversee local fire and disaster protection. The main task is to keep an emergency department ready, in addition you are involved in building permits , fire protection inspections, fire protection education, creation of deployment plans and special protection plans , operation of a control center , procurement of emergency vehicles and technology, as well as other tasks. Depending on the state law and local regulations, the organization of the rescue service can also fall under the responsibility of these offices.

Operations department

The operational departments of the professional fire brigade occupy the existing fire stations of the professional fire brigade in the city area. Depending on the size of the community, there are one or more fire stations . Vehicles for defensive fire protection, technical assistance and other hazard prevention and in many federal states also rescue vehicles are kept at the guards . Most of the crews consist of civil servants from the intermediate fire service.

Volunteer firefighter

In all cities with a professional fire brigade, there are also units of the voluntary fire brigade. In Germany it is often regulated in such a way that the volunteer fire brigade is called upon to reinforce or replace the professional fire brigade in larger deployments. In peripheral parts of the city, the volunteer fire brigade often has its own fire station , from where it can either be deployed

  • as a supplement to the unit of the professional fire brigade (especially in cities with only one professional guard)
  • if by alerting a time advantage can be gained when the forces arrive (mostly in cities with a smaller professional fire brigade with one location or in large cities such as Berlin, Munich, which take longer to travel to the periphery of the city than the alerted volunteers Forces in the affected location)
  • the deployment does not exceed a certain size and one does not want to risk the time advantage for the city center of the professional fire brigade by sending this unit to the periphery


  • in the case of many damaging events occurring at the same time (such as storms)


The staff of a professional fire brigade is made up of officials from the middle , upper and higher fire service. This is divided into different watch departments, which usually do their work and on-call duty at the fire station in 12 or 24 hour shifts. In addition, there are employees who are responsible for administrative tasks, as well as other officials who are deployed in a control center or manage individual departments, as well as officials who take on official tasks in preventive fire and disaster protection .


The service at a professional fire brigade is generally very popular in Germany, so that in many selection processes only around 3% of applicants receive a job offer. The entry requirements are based on the respective career regulations of the federal states:

  • Medium fire service - secondary school leaving certificate , completed vocational training - mostly in a trade, EU citizen , health qualification
  • High-level fire service - advanced technical college entrance qualification, diploma / bachelor's degree in a technical or scientific (technical) university course, otherwise as in the middle level fire service
  • higher level fire service - general university entrance qualification, diploma / master in a scientific / technical university course, otherwise as in the middle level fire service. A positive vote by the German Association of Cities is a prerequisite for employment with some professional fire departments.
  • Rescue service - since professional fire brigades are sometimes also active in the rescue service, there is also the possibility of obtaining a position as an emergency paramedic , which is then limited to the area of ​​activity in the "rescue service".
  • The positions in the administrative area are usually assigned to civil servants of the (middle, upper and higher) general non-technical administrative service and municipal employees.

working conditions

Due to the widespread 24-hour shift rhythm, professional firefighters in Germany work an average of 48 hours a week (56 hours a week until 2007). In addition to firefighting operations, they also perform activities related to their training occupations or take part in training / further training events and professional sports. In accordance with the regulations that are currently still in force, firefighters end their active service when they reach the age of 60, although an extension of the service up to the age of 63 is currently being discussed.


Middle Ages / early modern times

Fire protection has always been an important issue there, due to the dense development of cities in the Middle Ages. The firefighters then based usually on a general obligation to render assistance to all citizens of a city. From the fire extinguishing regulations of the time it emerges that in larger cities, as a rule, the tower watchman or the city guard was obliged to report fires. It was also determined which professional group / guild was entrusted with which task. For example, it made sense to oblige the roofers to provide ladders. All other citizens had to gather in a fixed place and be assigned different tasks. Fire protection was vital, especially during the Thirty Years' War , as possible attackers could use a fire as a welcome weakening of a city's defense mechanisms.

There were usually severe penalties for disregarding the duty to help in the event of a fire, as well as for deliberate and negligent arson.

17./18. century

From the middle of the 17th to the end of the 18th century, the fire extinguishing system in Germany's cities was amended. The reason for this was the development of new technical devices, such as the hand pressure syringe in 1766 , which enabled more effective fire fighting. In addition, extinguishing buckets or fire ladders were purchased by the municipalities in many places and kept only in case of fire. Until the end of the 19th century, they determined the image and the way fire brigades worked in Germany.

19th century

In the 19th century the modern fire brigades increasingly emerged. Most of these emerged from gymnastics clubs and student associations that put themselves in the service of the general public. Further technical innovations, such as hydrants, also no longer made it necessary for all citizens of the growing cities to be involved in the fire protection service. In addition there was an increasing training and military-like organization of fire brigades. At the end of the 19th century, full-time workers were hired for the fire protection service in the largest cities for the first time, which marked the birth of the first professional fire departments.

Until 1950

In the first half of the 20th century, most fire brigades were motorized, and motorized syringes and turntable ladders were now also available. These were also necessary because the First World War significantly reduced the number of men fit for fire fighting. In the years that followed, outdated equipment often had to be used, as new purchases were not possible due to inflation. When Hitler came to power , the fire extinguishing system again experienced an upswing, which was inevitable in preparation for the Second World War . Among other things, the concept of fire fighting vehicles originates from this time, and the siren was also developed during this time. In 1935 the fire brigades were dissolved by the Air Protection Act and converted into the fire-fighting police, which was completely absorbed by the police in 1939. At that time there were mainly professional fire brigades in the cities of northern Germany, while southern Germany usually only had volunteer fire brigades. Since many men were drafted during the mobilization , women's fire brigades were also set up in the years of World War II, which had to cope with loss-making missions, especially during the bombing of major German cities.

After the end of the Second World War, fire protection was initially maintained improvisationally with vehicles from the “Third Reich”.

From 1950

Fire Brigade Olympics of the World Fire Brigade Association CTIF in July 1985: The GDR fire brigade selection team of the professional fire departments (light uniforms) and the only sports competition team of the DFV (FF Beselich-Obertiefenbach) (dark uniforms)

It was not until the 1950s that many fire departments were re-established and equipped with new equipment. In addition to and from the volunteer fire brigades, numerous additional professional fire brigades have now also been equipped with radio. Since then, numerous technical innovations have been added, so that (professional) fire services are now task forces that can cover a wide range of applications in addition to fire fighting. They have the most modern technology at their disposal, which is intended to ensure that operations are handled properly.

In the GDR , the professional fire brigade was part of the People's Police .

At the International Fire Brigade Competitions of the World Fire Brigade Association CTIF , which have been held since 1973, only professional fire brigades were initially allowed to participate in the fire brigade sports competitions. From 1985 volunteer fire brigades are also allowed. At the 8th Fire Brigade Olympics in Vöcklabruck / Austria in July 1985 , there was a German-German encounter between GDR professional firefighters and the DFV sports competition group of the volunteer fire brigade from Hesse .


Fire engine

See main article fire engine

The fire fighting train as a standard operational unit of a professional fire brigade usually consists of two fire engines and one aerial rescue vehicle nationwide . Depending on the region, a command vehicle (ELW) can be added here. More detailed information on these vehicle types can be found in the respective articles.

Special forces

In addition to the fire company fire departments operate depending on the regional conditions other special units as Wasserrettungszug , Gefahrstoffzug , high-altitude rescue group , rescue diver , crisis intervention / SBE teams and much more. Information about their emergency vehicles can be found in the article Fire fighting vehicles in Germany .

Fire station

A modern fire station is a building that houses a variety of work areas that go far beyond the vehicle hall and standby rooms.

See also


  • Walter Hamilton: Handbook for the Firefighter. 20th, revised edition. Boorberg, Stuttgart a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-415-03176-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Law on Fire Protection and Assistance (North Rhine-Westphalia) (PDF; 123 kB)
  2. a b Fire Brigade Act (FwG) Baden-Württemberg , (2010, last amended on October 17, 2015), Section 6,
  3. Gerd R. Ueberschär : Freiburg in the air war 1939-1945 , Ploetz, Freiburg im Breisgau / Würzburg 1990, ISBN 3-87640-332-4 , p. 122
  4. ^ Franz-Josef Sehr : The friendship with the fire brigade began before - Beselich and the GDR national team at CTIF . In: Florian Hessen 7/2015 . Henrich Druck + Medien, Wiesbaden 2015, p. 22-23 . ISSN 0936-5370 .