||“My first thought as I drove off was how incredibly quiet it was behind the wheel. It has a tight turning circle and slips smoothly around tight corners,” says Theo Graeff.
At the touch of a button, the truck’s hook-lift sets to work with a whirring sound and grabs its load. The truck bucks slightly, and in ninety seconds hauls a 12-tonne container onto its cargo platform as though it were a mere Lego brick.
“This container is a supply module and it is our most common load. It contains a small kitchen, refrigerator and benches that we can place on site so the firemen can have a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Since many fires last a long time, it is very important that the people fighting the flames are properly supplied with food and drink – they cannot work long hours without adequate nourishment,” says Theo and sets off towards Damrak, one of the city’s busiest streets.
Important service to the city
The support unit in Amsterdam has about 15 emergency call-outs a year. This may not sound a lot, but help from here is only requested in the event of major fires, large-scale accidents or catastrophe situations. In central Amsterdam, the fire service receives emergency call-outs 6 or 7 times a day. Usually for minor fires or to rescue people stuck in elevators. By far the most common scenario, however, is cycle and car accidents.
“If the fire service’s biggest enemy is fire, then the support unit’s biggest problem is the traffic and the narrow streets. But I like it. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been doing this for so long. The professional fire-fighters are great people and they appreciate what we do. And although we only provide logistics, I’d like to believe that we play an important role in keeping the fire service working efficiently,” says Theo Graeff as he sweeps by the railway station on his way back to the support unit.
Amsterdam’s traffic problem is gradually moving towards a solution. In 2003 work started on extension of the city’s metro system. The new line, which it is estimated will cost Amsterdam 23 billion kronor, will transport more than 200,000 people daily and is expected to be ready in 2013. Until then, Theo Graeff and the other drivers will have to continue tackling the traffic with their new Volvo trucks.