In recent weeks fire brigade teams from throughout Germany vied for the Conrad Dietrich Magirus Award , and now the Fire Brigade Team of the Year for 2013 has been chosen: The Children's and Youth Fire Brigade of the small town of Bierden near Bremen in Lower Saxony. The young winners, ranging in age from eight to 14, topped professional and volunteer fire brigades from throughout Germany with their enthusiastic aid campaign benefiting the victims of the June floods. They received their award on Friday evening at a gala event with 600 guests in the Congress Centrum, Ulm. In addition to Antonio Benedetti, CEO of event host Magirus GmbH, the guests included the Mayor of Ulm Ivo Gönner, Olympic champ Lars Riedel and Ulm native Uli Hoeneß, President of FC Bayern Munich. The team from Bierden, winner in the category "Community Service" edged out the Volunteer Fire Brigade of Erndtebrück, North Rhine-Westphalia (winner in the category "Fire-Fighting") and the Volunteer Fire Brigade of Laasphe, North Rhine-Westphalia (winner in the category "Rescue Operations").
"An unbelievable number of dedicated fire-fighters, including over a million volunteers, are the backbone of Germany's fire brigades," says Antonio Benedetti in his very personal opening speech. "With the Conrad Dietrich Magirus Award we want to remind the public of exactly how much fire-fighters do for us. The Conrad Dietrich Magirus Award should be their 'Oscar', in the name of the most famous fire-fighter in history."
At a spectacular gala event the invited guests, many of whom came in uniform, experienced the entire range of tasks which confront fire brigades every day. Fire-brigade teams from throughout Germany had submitted their most outstanding missions to compete in three categories, "Fire-Fighting", "Rescue Operations" and "Community Service" In October a jury panel of specialists selected the best entries. These 14 finalists then faced the second challenge, public online voting at www.feuerwehrwelt.de. The campaign by the Children's and Youth Fire Brigade from Bierden, displaying great team spirit, dedication and solidarity, won a majority of the approximately 60,000 votes submitted, beating out primarily adult teams to take home the "Oscar of the Fire-Fighting Sector".
Team spirit to victory
The children and youths of the small town near Bremen convinced both the jury and the online voters with their campaign benefiting the victims of the Elbe river floods: While their adult comrades in the local Volunteer Fire-Brigade Bierden were on the job in areas hit by the Elbe flood, the enthusiastic youth wanted to pitch in as well. In no time at all the youth organised a campaign raising donations for the victims. They used local press, posters and Facebook to put out the word and managed to raise almost 1,600 Euros which they turned over directly to the families hit by the flood in the Elbe region.
This effort impressed Olympic champion Lars Riedel, who joined Antonio Benedetti in congratulating the young winners and presenting them with the Conrad Dietrich Magirus statue. "Even though I was alone in the discus ring, I know well that to succeed at the highest levels of performance you need a strong team behind you." The children and youth of the fire brigade Bierden have shown that with very little means and a lot of team spirit, it's possible to do an awful lot. In my eyes your setting a great example," said Riedel, who as a youth was himself in a fire brigade.
Sending a signal to young recruits
Dr. Roland Demke, Headmaster of the fire-fighting academy LFS Würzburg (Staatliche Feuerwehrschule Würzburg) and member of the jury, also had praise for the achievements of the youth fire brigade and saw the competition as sending a positive signal in the context of the difficult task of winning over young recruits. "This competition has shown what our children's and youth fire brigades are capable of; I would be very pleased if more young people would follow the example set by our winners and get more involved in fire and disaster protection."
The great significance of such volunteer dedication was also emphasised by surprise guest Uli Hoeneß. He took the stage as a representative of the charitable organisation Orienthelfer e.V., to which Magirus recently donated a fire engine. As a native of Ulm, Hoeneß played an important role in the donation for the Syrian conflict zone, thanks to his connections with Magirus. "There are so many people who get involved and provide voluntary assistance, and they only rarely hear the slightest 'thank you'. That's why I think it's great that so many fire-fighters have come together today to take a bow on behalf of so many dedicated volunteer responders in our country," Hoeneß added.
Of course the overall winners weren't the only ones celebrating on stage. The winner for the category Fire-Fighting, the fire brigade from Erndtebrück in North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Rescue Operations winners, the fire brigade from Bad Laasphe, were also thrilled to receive their trophies. The Erndtebrück fire brigade entered their mission extinguishing a major fire in a warehouse; their calm and foresighted behaviour convinced the jury members. The Bad Laasphe fire brigade submitted their major mission responding to the collision of a semi-trailer truck with a passenger train. The jury praised in particular the fire brigade's well-planned and by-the-book approach.
At the same time, the competition for the Conrad Dietrich Magirus Award was opened for the first time on an international level. Here the victors were the fire brigade in Palermo who convinced the jury with a dramatic mission in a collapsing building. The second place award went to the fire brigade from Botoşani (Rumania), while the fire brigade from Mooskirchen (Austria) took third place.
Trip to the New York City Fire Department
The outstanding dedication of the national and international winners was not only honoured with the statue, there was an unusual and additional prize: Teams of ten each from the Bierden children's and youth fire brigade and the Palermo fire brigade will visit what is probably the most famous fire brigade in the world, the Fire Department of the City of New York, including flight, accommodations, and an exciting program. The winners will have the chance to get to know the work of their American colleagues up close and personal. They'll be visiting various fire houses, touring the currently most modern fire-fighting vessel in the world, as well as experiencing the training of their American fire-fighter colleagues live at the academy "The Rock".