The winning fire team from Palermo.

Palermo Fire Department named ‘International firefighting team of the year 2013’

Published:  29 November, 2013

Firefighting teams from many countries have been competing for the title of International Firefighting Team of the Year’ in recent months. The winners were announced during an awards ceremony in Ulm, Germany, on Friday evening, November 22nd. Palermo Fire Department (Italy) was presented as the winner and was able to take the prestigious award home. The runner-up was Botosani Fire Department (Romania), while Mooskirchen Fire Department (Austria) celebrated third place.

’It is an honour for us to welcome so many deserving firefighters here today. Together with countless peers around the world, you put your life on the line for us in emergency situations – and for this I would like to express my respect and thanks today,’ said Antonio Benedetti, managing director of Magirus Brandschutztechnik, the company that organised the competition.

During the brilliant ceremony, some 400 invited guests experienced the full range of tasks that firefighters are confronted with on a day-to-day basis. Some of the teams that entered the competition cited extraordinary missions, ranging from a stubborn forest fire to the tricky rescue of a family stranded on high seas, and from severe snow storms and explosions to an infernal fire in a highway tunnel, to name just some examples. An international jury of experts - Michel Bour (CTIF), Matthias Seyfert (Österreichische Feuerwehr), Carlo Zaglia (Les Soldats du Feu), Tristan Reiz (Magirus) and Ann-Marie Knegt (Fire and Rescue) - put together a shortlist of ten emergency callouts in six different countries before the chosen finalists faced a second hurdle: a public online vote held on was to decide the ultimate winner.

A split-second decision

Palermo Fire Department secured the most votes. Theirs was a callout that the team will never forget, as fire chief Salvatore La Sala explained. One quiet December night, there was a call to attend a four-story building to examine the structure – which in itself is not unusual in a city like Palermo with its historic center. However, the team quickly discovered on-site that the situation was far more serious. Cracks spread across the walls, some of which were already buckled, and the stonework was crumbling. The fire department immediately began to evacuate the building, and just eight minutes later the entire palazzo collapsed.

A courageous callout

The international jury.

La Sala described the dramatic situation at the award ceremony: ‘There was a giant cloud of dust and debris. We could hear screams and were very concerned about the residents and our colleagues.’ Thanks to their brave and rapid action, the Palermo Fire Department crew managed to rescue 15 people from the building, while help unfortunately came too late for four others. ‘Such a performance takes many years of experience and a well-established team of individuals who can rely on each other completely,’ said Michel Bour, general secretary of the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services (CTIF), praising the crew on behalf of the jury. Antonio Benedetti also congratulated the winners before presenting them with the Conrad Dietrich Magirus statue together with Olympic gold medalist and five-time discus world champion Lars Riedel. The fire departments of Botosani and Mooskirchen were presented with certificates of honor for second and third place.

Trip to New York City Fire Department

In addition to the statue, the outstanding commitment of the winning team was recognized with an exceptional prize: ten members of Palermo Fire Department will travel to see the most well-known firefighting team in the world – the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) – with flights and accommodation paid for as well as an exciting program of activities. There the Italian team will have the opportunity to learn all about the work of their American colleagues up close and in person. They will visit various fire stations, step aboard the world’s most modern fireboat, and experience how the US firefighters prepare for their work by attending a live training session at The Rock training academy.

  • Operation Florian

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