The fire department Aletsch counts on the Aebi VT450 Vario with firefighting superstructure by Brändle
The fire department Aletsch in the car-free municipality Bettmeralp in the Swiss canton Wallis expanded its vehicle fleet with a new “colleague” in November. An Aebi VT450 Vario with firefighting superstructure by the company Brändle from Sirnach in the canton Thurgau will support the crew of captain Patric Jenelten in the future. What is so special about it? The powerful implement equipment carrier VT450 Vario by Aebi is running on wheels in the summer and on crawler tracks in the winter. Its availability is therefore guaranteed in every season of the year and on every surface – even on rough and steep terrain.
And you will find plenty of it at the foot of the Aletsch glacier. The municipality is located on an altitude of 1,948 and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage natural site Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch. Especially in the winter, the region around the Bettmeralp is very popular among winter sport enthusiasts and tourists. The vast extent and the regions difficult to reach due to steep inclines and narrow streets are a big challenge for rescue workers. In case of emergency, every second counts – therefore, the equipment and the rescue vehicles face a special challenge. This fact is especially aggravated since the municipality of Bettmeralp cannot be reached from the valley with heavy equipment. Therefore, a powerful and at the same time compact firefighting vehicle with practical superstructures and year-round usability is needed, which shall replace the current firefighting vehicle, an adapted snowcat. In cooperation with the specialist for firefighting superstructures, company Brändle, the Aebi VT450 Vario Euro 6 has been transformed into a multi-purpose rescue vehicle. The vehicle runs on wheels in the summer and is converted to a tracked vehicle for the winter months. The conversion can be done in approx. 4 hours.
“The design of the superstructure on this vehicle with crawler tracks had been uncharted territory even for us and demanded therefore some engineering work and know-how”, says Reto Kuhn, project manager at Tony Brändle AG. “On the one hand, the superstructures needed to be adapted to the version with wheels and 4-wheel-steering, while considering the high range of spring of 50 mm of the transporter. The crawler track, on the other hand, has a completely different behavior and requires more free space in the transversal axis in order to allow for the entire turn. We faced the challenge to combine both options for an optimum result. In addition, an extreme twisting must be possible between the driver’s cabin and the superstructure. We had to take that into consideration and adapt the superstructure accordingly.”
Both the vehicle construction at Aebi’s factory and the superstructure at Brändle are constructed in one-stop. The structural frame is produced in the in-house welding shop and metal workshop customized for the transporter and then painted, before starting with the interior equipment and the electric installation. According to the requirements and wishes of the customer, Brändle created a proposal for the best possible arrangement and storage of the equipment – from torches via breathing apparatus to hoses in the interior of the superstructure and will take care of equipping on agreement with the customer.
“In this specific category, no vehicle resembles the other”, explains Reto Kuhn. “There are countless versions and options.” The approx. 10 ton heavy triple combination pumper for the Bettmeralp has a lot to offer: It integrates a 2,000 liter water tank, and a powerful pump with 1,500 liters for 10 bar which is driven via secondary drive on the rear power take-off of the VT450 Vario will take care of the required performance. Walls and struts in aluminum light-weight construction offer both low weight and high stability. Due to the extreme temperatures in winter on an altitude of 2,000 meter, the superstructure is equipped with special insulation and a heater, ensuring firefighting operations at sub-zero temperatures. A rope winch with a pulling force of 4,500 kg and 38 m wire rope on the front of the VT450 Vario is providing safety, if required, and can tow heavy objects or vehicles. The equipment includes also 6 breathing apparatus units, 3 hand fire extinguishers, 18 fabric hoses, 7 connection hoses and a ladder mounted on the roof. All switching and information elements are simply and intuitively operated via a 5.7-inch touch panel with colored LCD screen visualization. A LED floodlight on the entire length of the superstructure will make sure that the vehicle is perfectly illuminated on the site of operation.
Finally, each rescue vehicle will be tested in a 3-year continuous factory acceptance test under full load in every aspect. We will deliver only after successful completion of the test. Due to the special geographical location of Bettmeralp, the new rescue vehicle of the fire department Aletsch “flew” by cable car to its new work location.