We are on fire! Not just at work but especially in our free time. My colleagues Mario, Bernd and I are volunteer firefighters who protect our hometowns in Germany.
Since 96 percent of German firefighters are volunteers, our neighbors rely heavily on us. Only 1,000 out of 25,000 fire brigades in our country are deemed to be “professional,” like those that operate close to our manufacturing sites. All the others are run by volunteers.
The three of us realized our passion for firefighting when we were teenagers and soon joined the youth fire brigade. Today, we all serve as firefighters in our communities. We are trained to fight fires, to use self-contained breathing apparatus, open crashed cars and provide technical rescues.
But why firefighting? Why risk our lives? Why running inside when everyone else escapes? Firefighting is not a hobby, but a passion. Those who see it just as a hobby don’t stay long.
For all of us, it’s the wish to save lives and property and to help others. We like the technical challenges, and we enjoy the comradery amongst firefighters. There are many opportunities to specialize, depending on your strength, so everybody can contribute successfully.
Bernd’s father was a firefighter and Bernd followed in 1978, at age 12, starting with the youth group. Since then, he has worked his way through all stages and is now a platoon leader and very engaged in training the active firefighters, especially the younger and less experienced ones.
Mario also started with the youth group in 1983, at age 12. He is now a team leader, much focused on passing along his passion to children, and he engages in supporting the non-profit association of his fire brigade.
I was introduced to firefighting by a friend in 1980, at age 15. I served 10 years at the THW (the Federal Agency for Technical Relief in Germany), while studying. I rejoined the local fire brigade in 1997 when I moved to Eppstein to work for Celanese. In parallel, I was serving 14 years as a volunteer firefighter at the Kelsterbach plant. I am also a team leader, focused on HAZMAT tasks/industrial firefighting, and I’m a member of a special unit for train tunnel rescues with chemical breathers and our county’s rope rescue team (SRHT).
As all of us are team/platoon leaders, we have to train and educate our comrades, and in case of an alarm, take over responsibility for our teams.
In 2017, we managed to get my local fire brigade vetted for the Celanese Foundation. All of us dedicate hundreds of hours per year supporting our fire brigades. As the Celanese Foundation grants us a Cause Card worth $10 for every volunteering hour logged, we can now also support our work financially.
As all fire brigades are one, Mario, Bernd and I, as well as our colleagues Thomas Scherer and Fabian Barthel from the Frankfurt site share the Cause Cards among four fire brigades and one rope rescue team. That money goes directly to the fire brigades of the communities closest to our sites in Sulzbach and Frankfurt and supports our neighborhoods.
In order to ensure that our communities will be fire-protected in the future, it is important for us to work with the youth of today to train the next generation. We are grateful that, thanks to the Celanese Foundation, we have been able to buy new equipment for our training, including a training dummy, work wear, alert systems, thermal cameras and a baby-rescue-bag, which enables the rope rescue team to save babies and toddlers from heights, depths or rough terrain. With many more items on our wish list and hopefully many more hours and Cause Cards to come, the Celanese Foundation will help us to fight fires even more effectively in the future.
Jens Burger, Mario Glaum and Bernd Rothländer
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