Now the fire service has it's two headed "animal". It is a tunnel rescue vehicle, being used in Croatia, called "Merkur".
The Merkur solves a unique set of problems found only in vehicle tunnel situations. These problems include:
- poor visibility due to smoke in fire events
- little room for vehicle maneuvering
- lack of oxygen (needed to keep combustion engines running)
The Merkur has two cabs, allowing drive in both operations. It runs on electric, therefore, requiring no oxygen for operation. This vehicle is reported to be extremely simple to operate. There is no gearbox required, merely a lever indicating 'forward' and 'reverse'. Only one cab can be in operation at a time. The driver can simply walk through to the other side for operation. The Merkur is equipped with thermal imaging cameras allowing operation even under extremely low visibility conditions.
The driver gets oxygen through a personal breathing apparatus, however, the Merkur is equipped with a fresh air breathing unit, supplying oxygen to those in the vehicle. This vehicle can evacuate up to 12 people at one time, each spot has its own oxygen mask connected to the vehicles system. For firefighting, the Merkur puts out a fine water fog from the base of the vehicle and around all the tires, allowing access to the source of the fire.
This vehicle is an amazing testament to the power of creativity in the fire service. We must become more accustomed to utilizing our creative capacity in solving the problems that are unique to our departments and communities. As much as we must exercise creativity when it comes to fire ground strategy and rescue tactics, we also must utilized it in administration. We must exercise creativity in the marketing of our fire departments, and in the finances of our departments (to not just make cuts, but to create new revenues).
For more on the Merkur tunnel rescue vehicle check out Hemming Fire.