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From project to reality

After decades of working in a close and successful partnership on the issues of fire brigade inspectors and directors, the Basel Land and Solothurn Building Insurances directed their thoughts at the start of the 90s towards the creation and operation of a joint training centre for firefighters.


In 1994, the decision was taken to create the intercantonal fire training center in Balsthal. The planning and development phase lasted several years to be followed, in 1998, by the ground-breaking ceremony for this forward-looking project.

The initial years

In autumn 2000, after an initial construction phase lasting 2 years, the ifa was officially opened. Since 2001, all official fire brigade courses for the Basel Land and Solothurn Building Insurances have been held at the ifa. Since 2002, the ifa has been able to offer individual training modules for fire brigades throughout Switzerland.


In 2005, the first mandated fire brigade courses for the FKS (Swiss Fire Brigade Coordination) took place. Other mandated course organisers also hold Swiss courses in the ifa and third parties use the ideal training facilities for courses and modules.

The tunnel training facility

In the year 2000, the FEDRO (Federal Roads Office) created a task force to assess the safety of Swiss road tunnels. From the resulting report, it emerged that a tunnel training facility should be built for the emergency services. The ifa applied, on the basis of the task force report, to play a role in the training and development of a tunnel training facility. At the same time, an educational methodology team was created to study this topic in detail.


In 2005, the FEDRO commissioned the Basel Land and Solothurn Building Insurances in partnership with Gasser Felstechnik AG with the construction of tunnel training facilities for the emergency services at Balsthal (SO) and Lungern (OW) and, additionally, with the development of a comprehensive teaching programme applicable to incident management in subterranean traffic facilities.


Construction work in Lungern began in 2006 followed, a year later, by the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility in Balsthal. In autumn 2007, a contractual partnership was reached with the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) allowing their internal firefighters long-term use of the tunnel training facility in Balsthal.


A separate organising institution, the International Fire Academy, has been founded for the operation of the tunnel training facilities finished in the year 2009.

Extending our infrastructure

From 2008 to 2010 the ifa has been extending and modifying the existing infrastructure to meet future demands. The construction project included a brand new reception building with an extensive refectory, cafeteria and accommodation, the restructuring and enlargement of the main building, work to increase capacity within the training hub, remodelling and extending the teaching and warehouse building and restructuring various other outbuildings.

Projects for the future

Although training requirements are on the increase, the time available to fulfil these needs continues to decline. This makes first rate training and teaching facilities the most important prerequisite of all. The ifa aims to create the optimal framework for efficient and comprehensive education both now and in the future.


A large number of projects have already been contemplated and should come to fruition in the coming months.