The HAIX Tower and the FireFit Europe crew have travelled over 6,000 kilometres on the continent’s roads in 2023. Our editor accompanied the journey from Hanover to Odense in Denmark at the end of August.
Roadtrip with the FireFit convoy
“Get on,” says Olaf: “It’s about time!” The analogue timer shows just before two. The FireFit convoy is at the Hanover exhibition centre. Almost 700 kilometres of motorway to Denmark lie ahead of us. In between, the Hamburg Elbe tunnel with its pre-programmed risk of traffic jams. And dinner was planned at the destination in Odense, Denmark’s second largest city – originally.
Couldn’t get any bigger
When Daniel Berger, mastermind of the FireFit crew, hired his new driver and asked which of the trucks he wanted to drive on his première trip, Olaf’s answer came like a shot from a jet: “The Scania with the HAIX tower on the back.” 34 tonnes, 7 axles, 3 metres overlength. The 21-metre-long thing that acknowledges bumps in the road with a jolt through the cab, as if a FireFit athlete had slammed the breathing apparatus onto the back of an unprepared colleague from a height of two metres. “That also comes from the small wheels on the five axles that carry the HAIX Tower,” says Olaf. But it couldn’t be any bigger, otherwise the trailer would not only have been too long, but also too high and would have been too big for motorway bridges and other subways.
“That’s how it works,” he says. The trucker feeling not only shines in the eyes of the man in his mid-fifties, who in real life is responsible for technology and the provision of emergency equipment at the Hanover fire brigade, but also in the eyes of his co-driver. Odense is his first FireFit tour, “but definitely not the last”. Being on the road with good people, that’s his thing. “Finally behind the wheel again”. Finally back on the road.
A quick lap of honour around the Messe Tower for the photographer, where the elite FireFit athletes will once again be storming up the HAIX Tower for new best times at Interschutz 2026 with 19 kilos of hose package on their shoulders and breathing protection in front of their faces. Then it’s over to the B65 and the A7 motorway and straight on north. Almost, at least. The Elbe Tunnel is closed to overlength lorries on this day. “We’ll have to take an alternative route,” says Olaf calmly. So from the A7 via the A21 towards Lübeck and Kiel to Denmark.
On the way, Olaf talks about his previous fire truck experiences. When he and a colleague transported an old fire engine to the Carpathian Mountains in the early 2000s. Back then. Without satellites, without satnav, without a mobile phone. Orientation according to old maps in a round bonnet vintage car from the 1960s. 4,000 kilometres between Romanian pothole tracks and unlit ladder wagons. Sounds like an adventure … and a lot of fun when Olaf talks about the wreaths of flowers and home-brewed schnapps with which they were welcomed on site.
6,000 kilometres, eight stops, five countries
After four hours of driving, it’s time for a coffee break. Wherever the FireFit convoy with the 12.5 metre high hydraulic steel tower stops, it attracts attention and amazement. What is it? What is it built for? It can be driven up in one piece?
It’s just before six. Double espresso, a few cereal bars. Time for a quick trucker chat. Daniel Berger is driving the MAN with the equipment that day. In the passenger seat is Anna, the tour’s social media manager. The fire officer and head of the watch department at Hanover’s professional fire brigade is the boss and head of the team. The man from Lower Saxony organises the missions, plans the journey and set-up, ensures that the trucks are in good shape and the HAIX Tower is maintained. And much more besides.
In his 2023 calendar, the FireFit dates are lined up as closely as the individual stops on the course: the 75th anniversary celebrations at HAIX in Mainburg kick off in May. In June, Bern in Switzerland, then Dortmund, then Wroclaw in Poland. In between, a detour to Torun in Poland to deliver equipment for training. On to Warsaw to sign a co-operation agreement with the general of the Polish fire service for FireFit in Poland. In July to Siegertsbrunn near Munich. Now in August we are travelling to Odense in Denmark, 50 km from Copenhagen. Afterwards, the HAIX Tower in Höxter will be at the State Garden Show in North Rhine-Westphalia and at the beginning of October we will be travelling across the Alps to Montichiari, where the last FireFit of the year is on the agenda as part of the REAS trade fair in Italy, which is powered by INTERSCHUTZ.
“That adds up to quite a few convoy kilometres,” says Daniel. From Hanover, the home base of the HAIX Tower and equipment truck, it’s almost 2,000 kilometres to Switzerland and back again. 1,300 kilometres to Mainburg and back, the same distance to Wroclaw and almost 2,000 kilometres to Warsaw.
The 700 kilometres to Denmark almost seem like a Sunday drive. But on Sundays by lorry? “The HAIX-Tower is allowed,” says Daniel, “because it is classified as a showman’s vehicle and showman’s vehicles are also allowed to drive on Sundays and public holidays – at least in Germany.” The catch is that the truck with the equipment is not allowed.
It is now just before 8 pm. The sun is splitting the flat, southern Danish horizon into its spectral colours. After Kolding, we turn from the E45 onto the E20 heading east. As we cross the Little Belt on Fynske Motorvej, the Baltic Sea sparkles in the last blue light of dusk before it fades into the dark night.
60 kilometres and just under an hour later, we have reached our destination, the Congress Centrum in Odense with its Jyske Bank Arena. It’s now 10 p.m. and it’s not the first time that the chocolate bar on the motorway has replaced dinner. A beer is always a good nightcap. Tomorrow morning we set up. The day after tomorrow, the event starts in the vicinity of the trade fair and the Danish fire brigade’s national association conference. Two days of competitions with lots of new fans along the route, then dismantling and back, straight to Höxter, where the HAIX Tower will be the centre of the next FireFit a week later.