ŠKODA Fire Brigade Equipment: Drone, Robot, 60 m Platform

ŠKODA Fire Brigade Equipment: Drone, Robot, 60 m Platform

It’s not just in its cars that ŠKODA uses state-of-the-art technology – its fire station at the Mladá Boleslav plant is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the Czech Republic. The company’s Fire Department uses a fire-extinguishing and reconnaissance robot, drones with thermal cameras, and the country’s tallest remotely controlled high-lift platform. The firefighters can reach the site of an incident within five minutes.

28. 5. 2019 CORPORATE LIFE

ŠKODA established its first volunteer firefighting unit in 1905. Today, the company has a team of professional firefighters and cutting-edge equipment, including (since February) a 60-metre high-lift platform, the highest in the Czech Republic.


Where necessary, these firefighters provide assistance outside the plant site.

The firefighters’ equipment includes a drone with a thermal camera that can be used to deal with big fires where the smoke density makes the site difficult to survey. The drone’s thermal camera identifies the epicentre of the fire with a high degree of accuracy, so the firefighters can focus on the correct spot. A remotely controlled robot, another first of its kind in the Czech Republic, can be deployed in life-threatening situations where there may be a risk of explosion.

Obviously, the main goal is to prevent fires from happening in the first place and, if they do occur, to extinguish them before they intensify. In its pursuit of this objective, the Fire Department employs a sophisticated prevention system: 200 thermal cameras and 35,000 fire sensors are spread across the Mladá Boleslav site. The information received from this network is concentrated at a fire safety control centre that uses special software designed for big industrial zones. A similar system is used by the City of Prague. Using this network, fire safety controllers can identify locations that either pose a risk of fire or where a fire has broken out and ensure that firefighters arrive really quickly – within five minutes.


This is how a thermal imaging camera shows the hot spot of a fire.

The ŠKODA Fire Department’s duties go beyond putting out fires. Where necessary, these firefighters provide assistance outside the plant site and provide regular training to colleagues at other firefighting stations on how to extract injured people from crashed cars. 


The switch to eMobility also poses new challenges for firefighters. Electric vehicles have their own specific materials. ŠKODA firefighters have developed their own system to extinguish burning batteries in electric vehicles. They will teach others their methods. “The battery contains lithium, which is a highly reactive metal. Although it takes the form of compounds, the lithium component of the battery is highly reactive, as is the electrolyte. This means that, in the event of a fire, there are various chemical reactions that make this type of burning rather specific,” says the Fire Department’s commander, Stanislav Cihelník. “We have recently developed technology to handle fires of this kind quickly and efficiently. The process is now being tested, and we are preparing instruction sheets for other firefighters, so we can’t say any more about it at this stage.”


What makes the ŠKODA Fire Department different from other professional firefighters?

System-wise, all fire stations are similar. In terms of equipment and human resources, our system is designed for a really big industrial site that comes with numerous specific factors. Take Hall M13 in Mladá Boleslav, for example, which is where the OCTAVIA is made. From a firefighting perspective, this is one of the country’s most complex facilities because of its size and the high concentration of people that work there. Saving lives is the top priority, of course, but we also have to adapt our tactics to the equipment in place. For instance, if a CZK 60 million machine catches fire, we can’t just dump several tanks of water on it.

Stanislav Cihelník
ŠKODA Fire and Rescue Department


How many callouts do you have annually?

About 2,500. The share of fire-related incidents at the plant, though, is very low, averaging 80 to 90. Prevention means that any fires that do occur are promptly handled without fuss. Plus there is the fact that we are able to arrive at a fire scene within five minutes, enabling us to avert major damage. We have roughly 70 callouts outside the complex, where we help other firefighters if there has been a road accident or a fire has broken out at a large industrial site. About three hundred callouts are false alarms. For the most part, we are called out to provide professional pre-medical injury assistance. We have our own ambulance vehicle at each production plant, and all firefighters have been trained to administer first aid.


You have mentioned prevention – how does that work in practice?

We do all we can to ensure that there is no repetition of those big fires of the past. Whenever a new facility is being built, we are involved in the design work and in the drafting of fire documentation from day one. We install fire alarm systems covering all of the new site and thermal cameras in critical locations. ŠKODA operates hydrant networks, modern indoor fire hose cabinets, outdoor ground-level hydrants, and automatic fire shutter systems for conveyors and routes. There are high numbers of automatic heat and smoke extraction flaps all over the site. In the paint shop hall, we have a fixed water-based firefighting system and sprinkler system on all the paint lines, at the paint mixing site and in the paint storeroom. The assembly halls are also fitted with fixed water-based firefighting systems. Detectors have been installed in halls where there is a risk of explosion.

This all sounds very exciting. Do many people want to work as company firefighters?

Yes, there’s so much interest we have to refuse candidates. We have about 50 applicants per vacancy, and not a day goes by without someone calling to say they want to work here. Being a ŠKODA firefighter is a prestigious job, mainly because we use state-of-the-art equipment in our work.


Where necessary, these firefighters provide assistance outside the plant site.

Examples of equipment used by ŠKODA firefighters


The B 60 Rosenbauer, a telescopic firefighting platform fitted on a SCANIA chassis, is the highest high-lift platform of its kind in the Czech Republic. It features a special stabilisation control system. The platform cage is designed to carry 5 adults, and the equipment also includes a jump mat and a 60-metre rescue sleeve. The latest innovation is CCS COBRA, a special system designed to punch and cut through any type of material. Using water-and-abrasive cutting technology, this system disperses water to create fine water mist, which has a high cooling effect while efficiently dousing hidden fire epicentres.


Drone - the DJI Matrice 210 is a professional quadrocopter designed to meet all the needs of the ŠKODA Fire and Rescue Department. The system is rain-resistant and can be used at temperatures ranging from minus 20°C to plus 45°C. The design makes it possible to connect two stabilisers and a camera at the same time. With optional batteries, the M210 has a maximum flight time of 38 minutes.

The LUF 60 robot is a wireless, remotely controlled fire-extinguishing mobile system offering an operating range of 300 metres. High levels of mobility and flexibility are the result of a caterpillar chassis designed to ride uphill and up staircases at gradients of up to 30°, to push away a crashed car, and to transport a 400 kg pallet. The system features a high-capacity overpressure ventilator to produce water mist and compact water streams. This solution makes it possible to eliminate combustion products, smoke, radiant heat and toxic gases while reducing the overall fire intensity. Radio controlled under standard circumstances, the system also features a back-up manual control system in case of power supply outages.


The CAS - MAN 4×2 is a first-response vehicle fitted with tanks for 2,000 litres of water and 400 litres of fire-extinguishing foam, a COBRA high-pressure fire-extinguishing system, a CAFS (Compressed Air Foam System), including two winches with hoses (80 metres in total), and a Holmatro rescue tool set.


The CAS – SCANIA 4×2 is a first-response vehicle fitted with CAFS and COBRA systems. The vehicle is only 2.95 metres high, and the design of its superstructure has been adapted so that it does not extend beyond the height of the driver’s cab. Installed in a special roof box, a mobile signal converter facilitates firefighters’ on-site communication. Using a manual digital terminal (Mototrbo), firefighters in action can communicate with the base control centre from any location throughout the ŠKODA production plant site.


The CAS 40 SCANIA – P450 B6×2*4NA with a 3,500 mm wheelbase, rear-axle air suspension and steerable first and last axle. The stainless-steel extinguishing agent tank has a capacity of 8,500 litres of water and 1,000 litres of foaming agent. Both sides of the superstructure feature LED gauges indicating how much extinguishing agent is left. The pumping system has a nominal output of 4,000 litres per minute and is equipped with a Compressed-Air Foam System (CAFS) to make compressed-air foam. It also features a CCS-COBRA cutting extinguisher.

The PHA 40 – SCANIA 8×4 is a heavyweight fire foam truck. Its superstructure is made up of tanks for 13,200 litres of water, 1,000 litres of standard fire extinguishing foam and 250 litres of special foam with high-cooling capability. The rear part of the vehicle features a Rosenbauer NH40 pump, controlled from the driver’s cab with an on-board computer or from the pump area. A special rail with nozzles connected to the pump’s outlet is designed for linear and planar fire-extinguishing operations, e.g. in grassy areas and fields, and is also used to clean roads.


The VOLKSWAGEN Crafter is an ambulance designed for rapid medical assistance.

Mladá Boleslav’s firefighting history

The first volunteer firefighting unit at Laurin & Klement was formed in 1905. In 1914, shortly before the First World War, it became one of the first units in Austria-Hungary to employ professional firefighters. After a devastating fire in 1969, the Company decided to build a new fire station and modernise its firefighting fleet. After 1990, the firefighting unit was renamed the ŠKODA Fire and Rescue Department. New equipment was bought, including fast Volkswagen Transporter and MAN rescue vehicles and a Bronto Skylift high-lift platform. The Mladá Boleslav station currently employs 12 firefighters per shift plus two that, on working days, take turns to be on duty at the Technological Development Department.


Vrchlabí’s firefighting history

The first volunteer firefighting unit at the Vrchlabí plant was established in 1950 and was made up of members of volunteer fire brigades from the surrounding villages who worked at ŠKODA. Their key responsibilities involved prevention and civil defence. In the early 1990s, the Company decided that six members of the existing unit would become professional firefighters, and the unit was extended to include new members from the workforce. These days, Vrchlabí has a commander plus two firefighters on each shift, backed up by the volunteer works firefighting unit, which is made up of 11 plant employees. First responders use a CAS 32 vehicle built on a SCANIA 6×4 chassis and fitted with an 8,000-litre water tank, a high-pressure fire-extinguishing system, a Weber extraction system, breathing equipment, chemical suits and other firefighting accessories, including a ONE SEVEN system. It is a device designed to make compressed heavy foam. The ONE SEVEN system is so-called because seven bubbles of foam are created from a single drop of water. Foam bubbles made this way have properties similar to finely sprayed water (water mist). The system is excellent at cooling, but also has insulating capabilities. In particular, it isolates combustible material from atmospheric oxygen and provides protection from the thermal radiation of flammables that have not caught fire.


Kvasiny’s firefighting history

The first volunteer firefighting unit at the Kvasiny plant was established in 1953, when the plant was integrated into the corporate structure of ŠKODA (called AZNP Mladá Boleslav at that time). For years, the unit averaged 35 members. Today, the Kvasiny fire station employs 5 firefighters per shift. They can be assisted by 10 members of the volunteer works firefighting unit if necessary. First responders use a vehicle built on a SCANIA 4×2 chassis fitted with a 3,000-litre water tank and a high-pressure fire extinguishing system (CCS COBRA), plus a tank truck (SCANIA 6×4 chassis with a KOBIT superstructure) with tanks for 8,000 litres of water and 800 litres of fire extinguishing foam.


Related Stories Based on tags: 2019, Kvasiny, Mladá Boleslav, safety, Vrchlabí