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The VSM plant fire brigade during a fire drill in 1905
The VSM plant fire brigade during a fire drill in 1905
Group photo of the members of the VSM plant fire brigade in 1920
Group photo of the members of the VSM plant fire brigade in 1920
In 1965, the VSM plant fire brigade had motorised emergency vehicles
In 1965, the VSM plant fire brigade had motorised emergency vehicles

1880: We have a long tradition of safety: The VSM plant fire brigade

One of the greatest dangers for a manufacturing company has always been fire. Like many other companies, VSM therefore has its own fire brigade. Ours was founded on 1 July 1880 by the company founders Oppenheim and Seeligmann, making it one of the oldest fire brigades in Lower Saxony and Germany. It was initially made up of 14 employees and this number continued to grow steadily in the following years, to 37 employees in 1892. Initially, the water supply was the biggest problem, as the municipal water network did not yet reach as far as the plant premises. The only available source of water was a simple well. At that time, the main goal of the plant fire brigade was to immediately extinguish – or at least to contain their spread as far as possible.

The inadequate water supply also had direct dramatic consequences on the morning of 25 June 1884: A fire was detected too late and destroyed the affected factory building. The lack of water made it impossible to put out the fire. The plant fire brigade nevertheless prevented the flames from spreading to the rest of the plant by quickly building protective barriers.

In its early days, the fire brigade was not only limited to the plant, but also took part in operations in the district and neighbouring areas. Even today, on rare occasions it still attends large-scale operations of the municipal fire brigade.

In order to be able to react as quickly as possible in emergencies, emergency personnel were permanently located on the plant premises; even the night watchmen were trained as firefighters. During the Second World War, the plant fire brigade was successfully deployed several times after bombing raids, but was eventually pushed to its limits following the most severe and devastating attacks in 1945. Fortunately, VSM suffered no more major fires until 1985. In that year, a major fire occurred, resulting in the destruction of the thermal post-combustion system of a production line. Together with the aid of the professional fire brigade, the plant fire brigade prevented the fire from spreading.

Recently, the role of the fire brigade has changed somewhat. Due to greatly improved fire protection measures, fire fighting has become less of a requirement. In return, however, there has been an increase in technical assistance. For example, during the Christmas period in 1995, when a large amount of coolant leaked from a tank. The clean-up operation took up the whole of the holiday period and was done under extremely adverse conditions at temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Nevertheless, it was completed without the support of the municipal fire brigade.

Today, 144 years later, the plant fire brigade is still an institution at VSM. Its members not only have access to state-of-the-art equipment. Each member of the plant fire brigade has completed basic training and is qualified for the entry-level rank of firefighter at least. Modern technology and good training enable our plant fire brigade to create all the necessary conditions for us and our neighbours to feel as safe as possible around the clock.

Photo taken in 1990 of the VSM plant fire brigade with respirators
Photo taken in 1990 of the VSM plant fire brigade with respirators
Even today, over 140 years after its foundation, the VSM works fire brigade is an important institution for the entire VSM company
Even today, over 140 years after its foundation, the VSM works fire brigade is an important institution for the entire VSM company

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