Overview historical development of firefighting in Zagreb

Through its history Zagreb has suffered many fires. This gave birth to the idea of founding an organized firefighting brigade. The initiative for realizing this idea came from Pavao Hatz, Đuro Deželić and Janko Grahor. The original idea was to found a professional brigade, however, not wanting to burden the citizens with new taxes, in 1870 began the formation of the Volunteer Fire Department of Zagreb. This is the oldest Department in the Firefighters Association of Zagreb and one of the three oldest departments in Croatia.

For forty years the citizens gathered in the Volunteer Fire Department of Zagreb carried on with the challenging duty of protecting Zagreb from fires. Thanks to the sacrifices and discipline of many known and unknown masons, carpenters, locksmiths, chimney-sweepers, officials, city senators and other citizens, the basis for great work was laid. Not only did they protect their fellow citizens, demonstrating a high level of solidarity and humanity, they also laid the foundation for firefighting in Zagreb.

Throughout this forty years Zagreb was rapidly expanding in number of citizens and size. Zagreb’s pioneer firefighters gathered in the Volunteer Fire Department prepared the terrain for a professional firefighting brigade. In 1910 it became clear that Zagreb needed more than a firefighting organization based exclusively on volunteers and social work and a professional guard was formed. Today it’s known as the Public Fire Brigade of Zagreb.

The Firefighters Association of Zagreb was established in 1930. Founded on historical foundations of firefighting in Zagreb, today it consists of around 55 volunteer fire departments and the Public Firefighting Brigade of Zagreb.

The Public Firefighting Brigade of Zagreb is a professional cornerstone for firefighting and protection from natural disasters in Zagreb. The volunteer fire departments network covers the whole area of Zagreb which allows the firefighters to promptly react if necessary.

Members and work program of the Association

The Firefighting Association of Zagreb includes 55 volunteer fire departments, which consist of 8656 members. These are: Adamovec, Belovar, Bijenik, Blaguša, Blato, Botinec, Brezovica, Bukovac, Buzin, Cerje, Črnomerec, Čučerje, Dankovec, Dragonožec, Dubrava, Glavničica, Gračani, Granešina, Granešinski Novaki, Horvati, Hrašće, Hrelić, Ivanja Rijeka, Jaukševec, Jarun, Kašina, Kašina Gornja, Kobiljak, Kupinečki Kraljevec, Kustošija, Lipnica, Lužan, Maksimir, Mala Mlaka, Moravče, Odra, Odranski Obrež, Planina Donja, Planina Gornja, Prečko, Resnik, Sesvete, Sesvetski Kraljevec, Sesvetska Selnica, Sveta Klara, Šašinovec, Šestine, Trešenjevka, Trnje, Trpuci, Vidovec, Vrapče, Vrapče Jug, Vugrovec, Zagreb and the Public Firefighting Brigade of Zagreb.

Members of the departments are divided as following:

533 children ages 6-12
1649 youths ages 12-18
3534 members of the firefighting units
2940 members in reserve.

Evaluation of the work of the volunteer fire departments

The Association carefully follows the work of the volunteer fire departments and since 1996 the criteria for a scoring system were defined, thanks to which the Association can follow the work of the volunteer fire departments very precisely and encourage competition among them. The Firefighters Association of Zagreb is the only one in Croatia with this system, which encourages the volunteer fire departments to increase the professional qualifications of their members throughout the year so that they could be ready for acting in firefighting interventions.

The main scoring elements are:

  • • the number of members that passed the firefighting exam and have a medical certificate
  • • the number of members that participated in professional trainings and seminars
  • • the number of members of the firefighting youth and children
  • • participation in competitions
  • • showing up for exercises when called
  • • neatness and proper functioning of the firefighting apparatus and equipment
  • • preforming demonstrations
  • • realization of «fire prevention month»
  • • keeping files up to date
  • • fixing up the fire department and the surroundings

Training for the firefighting units

Each year in accordance with the Regulations trainings for the following firefighting ranks are realized: firefighter, first class firefighter, non-commissioned officer, first class non-commissioned officer, officer, first class officer. Besides that there are also trainings for members of the volunteer fire departments in individual firefighting specialties, such as training:

  • • for engineers
  • • for flood control and swift water rescue
  • • for hazardous materials responses
  • • for technical rescues
  • • for paramedics
  • • for respiratory protective equipment

Every year there are also trainings for the firefighting youth. With these kinds of training the readiness of the departments for action in case of a natural disaster continuously increases. Therefore in case of a flood, earthquake or hazardous materials leak the firefighters will effectively protect the citizens of Zagreb and their property. Apart from the training, the Association has made a Plan of action in case of a natural disaster. The idea was to be able to predict, as much as possible, who will act in what way in case of a natural disaster. It should also be noted that Zagreb is a city with more than a million habitants and it covers almost 700 km² (270 square miles) of space. Over one third of the economic potential of Croatia is concentrated in Zagreb, including such economic subjects as chemical industries, oil industry and even an airport which demands great knowledge from firefighters and the ability to undertake numerous preventive measurements in order to prevent fires and other possible disasters.

Specialist training for rescue from ruins

In the last couple of years thanks to the cooperation with the City Office of Emergency Management there have been trainings for rescue from ruins for firefighters. After finishing the training further qualifications are achieved by passing an ITLS course and with re-trainings that take place every year. These reinstate and affirm already acquired knowledge and skills.

Professional exam for performing firefighting interventions

The participants of the professional exam for preforming firefighting interventions are the commanders and vice commanders of the VFDs. There are preparative lectures for the participants of these exams, which are performed by the lecturers that were in the examination commission for the Ministry of the Interior in the past years.

Other trainings

Training for drivers with a “C” category driver’s license exists for a number of years. There is also training for drivers of motor vehicles of the “B+E” category for department members, which were given the permission from the Association to use a trailer for transportation of mobile motor firefighting pump with related equipment. Training for driving on difficult terrains with such vehicles as a Land Rover, a Mazda, a UNIMOG and a TAM 110 also exists.

According to the Law of Firefighting, at least 10 members of each volunteer fire department, which belongs to the Association, need to be qualified and have a certificate that proves them physically and mentally adequate for firefighting.

The Association also provides specialist training for the employees of companies, schools and kindergartens. During the training the particularities of these subjects are taken to account, so that with this training and preventive actions optimal results can be achieved and that the possible causes of fires could be prevented as much as possible.

May – the fire prevention month

Each year the Association makes a Program of activities in the fire prevention month, and all fire departments are obliged to make their own programs synchronized with the activities of the Association.
Each year in early may they organize the laying of a wreath on the monument of “the father of firefighting” Đuro Deželić, that is located in the headquarters of the PFB of Zagreb in Savska Street. Every year the firefighters traditionally mark 4th of May, the Day of firefighters and the day of our protector St. Florian, with a mass in the church of St. Marcus. After the mass the mayor organizes a reception for the firefighting representatives in the Dverce palace.

Firefighting youth and other activities

In order to maintain a fix number of members in the volunteer fire departments great attention is given to working with youths. There is currently 2182 of them in the departments. The youth has organized lectures on preventive activities, competitions and quizzes. Younger members have an organized stay in the firefighting camp Fažana in the summer months, where they, through various activities, learn about the basics of firefighting. Firefighters preform lectures and give demonstrations in schools and kindergartens about the preventive measures in firefighting. That way we not only educate and prevent fires but we also make firefighting popular among the younger population.

Firefighting Association also doesn’t forget its elderly. For two years in a row it organized the meeting of veteran firefighters. On these annual meetings five of the veterans will be awarded with a special recognition called “the firefighting veteran”. In the dinner and entertainment afterwards there are also many appropriate awards, such as for the best singer, for the best dance pair and so on.

For eight years in a row five hundred firefighters together with many representatives of other organizations took part in a votive pilgrimage to Marija Bistrica, which was organized on the initiative of the Mayor, Mr. Milan Bandić, and the City Government of Zagreb. The firefighters of Zagreb every year also participate in a pilgrimage organized by the Croatian Firefighters Association. There are around three hundred firefighters taking part in this pilgrimage, also to Marija Bistrica.

Considering that nothing, firefighting included, can’t function without modern IT technology all departments are equipped with IT equipment. That way a faster electronic communication is possible and it makes the Association’s website, which has the information on activities of the Association and of the departments, available.

Association’s operatives and operations

According to the official data of the PFB of Zagreb, in the city area there are a total of 4500 interventions a year and half of those are fires. It should be noted that the units of the VFDs independently or together with the members of the Public Fire Brigade participate in every tenth intervention, which makes around 300 interventions a year. Other than firefighting interventions members of the volunteer fire departments also participate in securing:

  • • the ski competition “Snow Queen” on Medvednica,
  • • Medvednica and Maksimir during holidays,
  • • football matches on Maksimir stadium,
  • • Remete during the holiday of the Assumption of Mary,
  • • concerts and events in the Arena Zagreb,
  • • concerts and events in the Sports and Recreational Center Šalata,
  • • events on the lakes Bundek and Jarun,
  • • the car race INA – delta rely,
  • • many manifestations in the city,
  • • the “Day of Novi Zagreb” manifestation on Bundek lake,
  • • film shootings,
  • • burning weeds.

Apart from being active in the Zagreb area and according to the Program of the Croatian Government, the volunteer fire departments of the Association were dislocated around the coastline during the season of increased risk of wildfires. The dislocation of the corresponding number of apparatus and firefighters generally lasts from the middle of June to the middle of September, so around three months and the units are exchanged every 14 days. In that season there are also a hundred volunteer firefighters ready for assisting the firefighting in the coastline at any moment.

Firefighting apparatus and equipment

Thanks to the understanding and financial supports of the City Government of Zagreb old apparatus are permanently replaced with new ones. Therefore in the last couple of years for the needs of the volunteer fire departments a series of the most modern conventional fire apparatus, tanker trucks, multiple Land Rover and Mazda wildland fire apparatus with a high pressure modulus for fire extinguishing, were acquired..

In the volunteer fire departments of the Association there is a total of 101 apparatus. There are as follows:

  • • 9 conventional fire apparatusa
  • • 21 tanker trucks
  • • 49 wildland fire apparatus with a high pressure modulus for fire extinguishing
  • • 7 brush trucks
  • • 1 heavy rescue vehicle
  • • 6 vehicles for transporting firefighters and firefighting equipment
  • • 5 vehicles for transporting firefighters
  • • 1 bus for transporting firefighters
  • • 2 vehicles for other purposes
  • • fireboat with a trailer.

Concerning the firefighting equipment, all the fire departments that are in the FA of Zagreb are equipped with at least the assigned minimum. New equipment is acquired every year according to the needs. Each department owns at least 10 sets of firefighting uniforms for interventions, 10 overalls for extinguishing forest fires, 10 pairs of intervention boots and boots for open space fires. Departments are also equipped with insulating respiratory protective equipment.

Since 2007 following the Plan of firefighting and the Assessment of the endangerment of Zagreb 5 central departments were formed. These are: VFD Hrašće, VFD Dragonožec, VFD Kašina, VFD Sesvete and VFD Šestine. They were assigned to areas of activity and are being increasingly equipped in order to assume their role according to the Plan of firefighting in Zagreb. Amongst others, one of the duties of the central departments is to supervise a joint firefighting exercise with the belonging departments.

Each of the VFDs plans the realization of themes according to the Program of general and theoretical classes in the VFD units. They need to deliver those plans to the Association, which monitors the realization of, at least, three themes in each department.

At least once a year the members listed in the Plan for calling a department will be called via text messege for an exercise. After mobilization the unit goes to an intervention and their mobilization as well as the arrival at the intervention with the necessary number of firefighters and all the necessary equipment will be evaluated.

In the last years there has been a competition in knowledge, skills and endurance for operative firefighters. The goal of the competition is to show knowledge acquired on trainings, work experience of the teams and resourcefulness in completing the tactical assignments, which they will encounter in real situations. Units from all the departments of the FA of Zagreb and the PFB of Zagreb are required to participate. There should be one unit from every department and teams should have 10 members. Every participant must at least have the rank

of firefighter and a medical certificate. On the competition the teams don’t have to split the males from females, mixed teams are allowed.


The Firefighting Association of Zagreb has many duties and carries on with many tasks even though it doesn’t have many administrative staff. There are only four people in the whole Association working on the professional administration for the Association and the departments. The president, vice president, commander and deputy commander of the Association administer their work as volunteers. Results have shown that great achievements can be accomplished even with a minimum number of staff.

We should emphasize that it would not be possible to realize such a large number of activities without the understanding and symbiosis of the volunteer firefighting, organized through the Firefighting Association of Zagreb, and the city administration. Thanks to that we can always count on the wholehearted help of the City Government and on the personal help of the Mayor who has recognized the potentials of volunteer firefighting and the work that volunteer firefighters, guided with a humane ideal, can achieve for the benefit of the citizens of Zagreb and Croatia. Mayor Bandić is personally included in all the activities as a volunteer firefighter himself. Volunteer firefighters “pay back” all the financial means, privileges and faith that are put into them through their humane work and the participating in interventions in Zagreb and on the coastline during summer.

Translated by: Nikolina i Gabriela Komorčec

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