Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
BA units or BA buses?
Published:  06 February, 2015

A BA van or BA unit generally describes a vehicle that is laid out for the transportation and/or rehab of breathing apparatus. Not so in Switzerland, where a BA van is a first-response vehicle that is used as a personnel carrier, writes Dr Holger de Vries, a freelance fire engineer from Germany.

Swiss firefighters riding on the BA vehicle can outfit themselves while en route in order (for instance) to complement fire trucks with only a short cab and a crew of maximum three firefighters, or as a back-up to any other fire appliances at the scene.

Oslo F&RS was one of the first to introduce this type of vehicles on Dodge vans (initially for their smoke divers, divers, and hazmat response teams) back in the 1970s.

The industrial fire service of the Novartis plant in Stein, Aargau (Switzerland), recently added a BA crew carrier to their fleet. It is based on a Mercedes Sprinter Type 516 CDI 4x2, with a wheelbase of 4,325 mm and a gross weight of 5.3 t, built by Feumotech AG Feuerwehrfahrzeuge und Motorspritzentechnik in Solothurn (Switzerland).

In the crew compartment six high-performance HO Bostrom Tanker 450 Flip-Up seats with integrated BA storage and three-point-seatbelts are arranged in single forward and rearward facing row configurations. The vehicle carries all the equipment necessary for BA teams, including radios, hand torches, ropes, BA control board, spare cylinders etc - but no fire fighting tools per se.

The drawing of a similar vehicle, built for the Chestenberg Volunteer FRS (Aargau) by Tony Brändle AG Wil (Thurgau), shows the basic layout of these vehicles in more detail.

For the safety of personnel it is critical that the crew section in the middle and the equipment section in the back are rigidly separated from each other. Using a seat that meets SEA and ECE road equipment standards rather than some type of bracket construction adds to passenger safety as well as comfort for longer rides.

Germany is now also seeing similar vehicles taken into service, such as at DESY in Hamburg (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, a national research centre that operates particle accelerators), based on an orange Renault Master. Similarly, Bochum FRS (Germany) uses a BA vehicle based on an MB Sprinter. Bochum FRS – as per the original Oslo concept – has assigned their BA vehicle to its divers, high angle rescue and BA backup teams.

DESY's vehicle (above) and Bochum FRS (below).

Smaller versions that are more like rapid response vehicles have also been built for various fire brigades. Egenes Brannteknikk AS (Flekkefjord) supplied one to Harstad Brann og Redning FRS in the north of Norway, based on an MB Vito 116cdi 4x4 (160 PS) with two forward-facing SCBA seats in the middle section, safely separated from the equipment section behind the rear axle.

Available in a variety of gross weights, wheelbases, roof heights and motorization and sometimes even 4 x 4 traction, these vehicles have a lot to offer to fire services.