Dispute in the Würzburg district fire department: are heads rolling now?

Showdown in the fire brigade dispute: the dispute between the district fire council and district fire inspectors has reached the next level of escalation. What happened now.

Again it is a letter that causes a stir in the top management of the Würzburg district fire inspection. This time the letter comes from the Würzburg district office. It is signed by the chief firefighter in the district. The addressees are the district fire inspectors (KBI) Winfried Weidner, Heiko Drexel, Mathias Olbrich and Christian Neeser. What does the boss want to get rid of?

Dissatisfied with the communication of the district fire council

The dispute between District Fire Councilor (KBR) Michael Reitzenstein, who is responsible for 112 fire departments in the district of Würzburg and for the plant fire department at Südzucker, has been smoldering for some time. What it is about is difficult to pinpoint. In general, the KBIs are dissatisfied with the communication. They feel ignored in decisions of the district fire council and accuse Reitzenstein that he is not ready for any constructive cooperation with them. They do not question his professional competence.

District Administrator Thomas Eberth (CSU) has had many discussions. Also with the district fire supervisors (KBM), who are one level below the inspectors in the hierarchy. They wish, as Eberth summarized it in a letter dated August 14th to the KBIs, “that calm has to return to the discussion about the fire brigade management of the district”. All KBMs agree that communication between the management levels should be improved.

The KBIs’ response to this letter from the district administrator did not take long. Two weeks later they write personally to Eberth and formulate serious allegations to the district fire council. Among other things, they accuse him of filling vacancies without involving the KBIs, that his tone is wrong and that he deliberately lies to executives and the district administrator. Reitzenstein firmly rejects all these allegations.

In December 2019, the world of fire services seemed to be okay. The highest executives, the KBIs Olbrich, Drexel, Weidner, KBR Reitzenstein and KBI Neeser (from left) awarded the then District Administrator Eberhard Nuss (center) the Medal of Honor of the District Fire Brigade Association. Photo: Carolin Haberstumpf

Eberth and Reitzenstein see the fact that this letter finally reached this editorial office and that the conflict became public as a breach of trust. The consequence: District fire chief Reitzenstein initiates a recall procedure for all four.

There are also complaints about a lack of appreciation

“It was all a shock for us,” says Winfried Weidner, who was appointed district fire inspector on January 1, 2001 and who has not owed anything in his entire career as a fire service. Weidner doesn’t want to say anything more about it first, but rather talk to his colleagues first. Christian Neeser and Heiko Drexel also do not give any statements.

“It was all a shock for us.”

Winfried Weidner, district fire inspector

Mathias Olbrich is a little clearer. For him it was never about technical issues, he says, but about communication and appreciation. “You are not able to talk to each other.” How well-deserved firefighters are dealt with, Olbrich thinks of his colleague Weidner, is “shameful”.

Only two KBIs come to talk to Reitzenstein

On October 1st, District Fire Chief Reitzenstein sat with the KBIs. His invitation to the interview “was unfortunately only accepted by two,” he said when asked. “From my point of view, it was nevertheless a very constructive exchange of views, which I would have liked to have had with all four KBIs.” At the end of our conversation, I promised both of them that they would be informed of a recall by telephone. “He did not call, instead gave it unpleasant post.

“Because this is not a dismissal, but rather a hearing,” explains Reitzenstein. The KBIs can now express their views until October 21. District Administrator Eberth, with whose consent he initiated the procedure under the Fire Brigade Act, says: “The door is not yet closed. A crack is still open.” Eberth discussed the situation on Monday in a closed session with the members of the district committee. The opinion was completely different, it is said from the participants. However, no one has spoken out directly in favor of the recall of the KBIs.

District Administrator: The district fire chief has also made mistakes

Why the letter addressed to him became public – that is still a mystery to Eberth. “Was that a targeted action, an oversight, an attempt to overthrow the district fire chief?” He is now hoping for clarity from the hearing. “This is not only a step that is necessary in the run-up to a recall, but also an attempt to find out what the KBIs wanted to achieve.” But he is also aware that the district fire council made mistakes. “Maybe a lot of mistakes”.

“The door isn’t closed yet.”

District Administrator Thomas Eberth (CSU)

The reaction of the fire brigade commanders should now be exciting. To what extent do you support your KBIs? Or do you stand by the district fire council? That will certainly be discussed heatedly at a service meeting to which Eberth will soon invite all commanders.

This is how the district fire inspection in Würzburg is structured

There are a total of 113 fire brigades in the Würzburg district. 112 of them are voluntary local brigades. In addition, there is the Südzucker plant fire brigade in Ochsenfurt. These fire brigades, in which almost 6,000 volunteer firefighters do their job, are looked after by the district fire council. He is practically the top chief of all fire departments.

Four district fire inspectors (KBI) help him with this. Heiko Drexel is responsible for the center of the district. Its area covers the area from the western district boundary near Kirchheim to the eastern near Frickenhausen. KBI Olbrich is responsible for the north-east of Würzburg. Christian Neeser looks after the southern district, from Aub over the Taubertal to the entire Ochsenfurt Gau. And KBI Weidner is responsible for the western district – with the A3 and A81 autobahns, this is an enormous operational focus.

The district fire inspectors are each assigned three area district fire officers (KBM). There are also so-called specialist KBMs who are responsible for training, respiratory protection, digital radio or operational planning, for example. They report directly to the district fire council.

The district fire inspectors and district fire masters perform their duties on a voluntary basis. The KBIs receive an expense allowance of around 1400 euros. The district fire council is elected for six years by the commanders of the volunteer fire brigades and the plant fire brigade on the proposal of the district administrator. In consultation with the commanders, he appoints the district fire inspectors as his representatives. He can also recall in consultation with the district office, it says in the fire brigade law.

Source: KBI Würzburg / tf

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