Airport railway station entirely smoke-filled during train fire

Shortly after being alerted to the fire of an ICE train in the underground Cologne/Bonn airport station on 10 November 2022, the Cologne fire service in charge received an initial all-clear: «ICE already evacuated». Nevertheless, four people suffered smoke inhalation injuries from the fire - three of them outside the station area. Daniel Richmann from the Cologne Fire Service and Luca Battista from the supporting Airport Fire Service at Cologne/Bonn Airport describe the course of the operation.

Station completely filled with smoke after a short time

The airport fire service carried out the initial intervention. However, a team of two with CO2 fire extinguishers could do little to fight the fire. By the time the Cologne fire service took over at 19:18, the station was completely filled with smoke.

Parallel to the firefighting, the train and the station area were searched for people. No more persons were encountered during the entire search. The areas under the stairs that homeless people use as a place to stay had already been cleared.

Railway station completely evacuated - smoke endangers outdoor areas

The Cologne/Bonn airport railway station is equipped with a mechanical smoke extraction system. However, at the time of the fire, the extraction system was not in operation for reasons that are not yet fully investigated. Smoke billowed out on all sides from the station's glass-domed roof.

The smoke drifted toward the car park from the glass dome and settled there. Of the five police officers who tried to cordon off the car park, three suffered smoke inhalation injuries.

Another endangered area was the terminals. The smoke was heading towards the central air intake for Terminal 1's air conditioning and ventilation. The ventilation system in the terminal was switched off and the terminal was checked for smoke intrusion. No persons were endangered.

Wandering person with smoke inhalation injuries

It proved difficult to locate another, initially unknown person with smoke inhalation injuries. The emergency control centre reported this person at the entrance of the station. It was unclear which of the entrances was meant. It marked the beginning of a search that lasted a total of 20 minutes. When the check of the entrances was unsuccessful, the enquiry via the control centre revealed: «The person is at the taxi rank». She was not found there either. Finally, the search ends at the German Red Cross collection point. The person was the train driver of the damaged ICE. The man was transported to the hospital for treatment.

A small fire with a big impact

The fire in the ICE carriage was «under control» 48 minutes after the alarm was raised, as the Cologne fire service describes it. Less than an hour later, it was reported «fire out». About 4 to 5 m of the ICE carriage burnt out. The relatively small fire filled the entire station and the surrounding area, including the multi-storey car park, with smoke. A total of 60 emergency personnel and 20 vehicles were involved in the operation.