Firefighting, is carried out by public organisations under the authority of the individual provincial governments uniformly organised throughout Austria, run by either municipalities or business companies and headed by specialists trained in fighting and preventing fires. Legislative and executive authority for the fire brigade belongs to the individual provinces; the actual fire fighting and prevention activities come under the jurisdiction of the municipalities. There are over 4,550 volunteer fire brigades in Austria; they are either entities under public law or organised as private associations or municipal facilities. In municipalities where a volunteer fire brigade does not exist, a firefighting organisation is appointed by regulation. The provincial capitals Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Klagenfurt as well as the Austrian capital, Vienna, all employ professional fire brigades. Companies where risk of fire is high employ their own firefighters (approx. 320 fire brigades); this can also be required by law. The costs of firefighting are covered by the municipalities or the companies. All firefighting associations in the provinces are organised under an umbrella organisation called the Austrian Federal Fire Brigade Association (OeBFV Ges. m. b. H., founded in 1948). The testing centre for fire fighting technology run by the OeBFV is a state-approved testing and supervision facility with branches in the various provinces.
In the Middle Ages firefighting was in the hands of the municipalities, and associations of tradesmen and guilds were required to do the actual firefighting. According to the oldest known fire ordinance of 1086 the craftsmen's guild was responsible for firefighting in Meran/Merano. In 1642 Innsbruck introduced the practice of regularly holding inspections of firefighting units. In 1685 the City of Vienna established Europe's first professional fire brigade with central headquarters at Am Hof. Between 1780 and 1782 all of Austria's provinces established a uniform fire ordinance. Organised firefighting began in the mid-19th century when gymnastics clubs formed the first firefighting divisions which later became the first volunteer fire brigade (1857 in Innsbruck, 1861 in Krems, 1862 in Wiener Neustadt and Hainburg, 1863 in St. Poelten and Wels, 1864 in Klagenfurt, Steyr and Oberndorf near Salzburg, 1865 in Enns, Bad Ischl, Vienna-Poetzleinsdorf, Graz etc.). They joined together in subsequent years to form district and provincial firefighting associations which then formed the "Standing Austrian Firefighting Committee" in 1889 (in 1900 it became the Austrian Firefighting Association, in 1917 it became the Austrian Imperial Association of Firefighters and Rescue Workers and in 1935 it was reorganised to form the Austrian Firefighting Association). The first professional company fire brigades arose when the firefighting squads were established at the Fuerstenfeld tobacco factory in 1813 and at Schwaz in 1831; the company fire brigades formed their own association between 1900-1938. In the last few decades the fire brigades have increasingly expanded their activities to include technical tasks (traffic accidents, search and rescue missions, floods). The companies Rosenbauer in Leonding (Upper Austria), Lohr-Magirus in Kainbach (Styria) and Marte in Weiler (Vorarlberg) have specialised in the production of technical firefighting equipment. Fires.
Literature#Fachschriftenreihe fuer die oesterreichische Feuerwehr, 1848ff.; Oe. Feuerwehr-Buch, ed. by the Oesterreichischer Bundesfeuerwehrverband, 1952; F. Czeike, Das Feuerloeschwesen in Wien (13th -18th century), 1962; H. Schneider et al., Das grosse oesterreichische Feuerwehr-Buch, 1986; J. Wuerzelberger, Das Niederoesterreichische Feuerwehr-Museum, 1994; H. Valentinitsch and J. M. Perschy (eds.), Feuerwehr gestern und heute, exhibition catalogue, Halbthurn 1998.