As we move into the new year you will notice some changes in this magazine's organization and presentation of news and information. We have also strengthened our editorial formula to further separate us from those magazines which restrict themselves to a "stable" of columnists and an occasional news story or special feature.
We are consolidating the "news" that ordinarily might appear as separate stories into a staff-written summary column beginning on the front page each issue. Major developments concerning apparatus and equipment manufacturers will continue to be presented as complete - and sometimes lengthy - news stories.
Corporate profiles and product profiles will still appear, but with less emphasis and shorter versions, no more than 1,800 words and six photos. (Sometimes we've been carried away, writing more than 3,000 words about a company and running 10 to 14 photos.)
New will be what we are calling "Incident Reports." These will focus on tools and apparatus used by responding departments at emergency scenes generating national attention. We will look behind the "big story" headlines to detail the equipment the fire service used to accomplish the job, not the number of injuries or the tactics employed.
None of our regular columnists will change, and all our special features such as Now In Service, Chief's Report, Recent Orders Report, People In The News and Back In Service features will continue.
At the same time we expect to soon announce appointment of an Assistant Managing Editor to give Ed Ballam a hand with his reporting and editing assignments, as well as a new director for our Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment web site.
In 2006, both Ron Heal and Katie Serviss joined the staff on a part-time basis and the magazine is continuing to grow. (This month we add more than 2,200 members of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association to our subscription lists as well.)
We are also developing a debate forum and inviting readers to participate. Our initial launch appears in this issue and debates whether or not there is any real value in ordering a high-volume pump of 1,500 gpm or greater.
Fire Apparatus magazine has already taken the position that going to a 1,500 gpm or larger pump takes away budget money that could be better spent on such things as a top line Class A foam proportioner or a CAFS installation that would be used at every fire versus an extra 250- to 750-gpm that might be used once - or perhaps never - over the apparatus lifetime.
High-capacity pumps require more space, considerably larger piping, more discharges, valves, gauges and flow meters, and often a larger diesel engine with greater torque and higher horsepower.
In addition, there are very few municipalities with the water supply systems to provide 1,500 to 2,000 gpm to feed a single pumper. If operating from draft, water supply is difficult indeed. Two 6-inch hard sleeves, one from each side of the pumper, are not easily placed in operation unless you can park the rig on a low, narrow bridge over a river or pond.
For those of you who contribute to either side of this debate, we will pay a small honorarium if your comments are selected for publication in our February issue. (Please keep submissions to less than 1,000 words.)
The fire apparatus business is undergoing some significant changes, many of which will come into play during 2007. Pierce's recent plant expansion and introduction of the Velocity and Impel chassis lineup of new features is only the start of a new generation of models from all the major manufacturers over the next five years.
Other large apparatus builders have plant expansions coming on line or, in two cases, complete new plants in the works. Ferrara Fire Apparatus of Holden, La., just opened a 50,000-square-foot addition bringing its manufacturing facility to more than 300,000 square feet in total. Ferrara now builds close to 400 fire trucks a year and has been posting significant gains each year. The expansion directly increases body building capacity.
In September, Seagrave Corporation of Clintonville, Wis., also opened a 137,000-square-foot addition and is coming out with a new version of its Marauder chassis. (It's about time.)
American LaFrance (ALF) has an entire new plant under construction off I-26 in Berkeley County, South Carolina, between Summerville and Jedburg.
This manufacturing, research and office facility will be well over 300,000 square feet and the opening is scheduled by June. Sold in December 2005 by Freightliner-Daimler-Chrysler to a private investment group, Patriarch Partners, ALF has until August to vacate its present facility owned by Freightliner.
A revamped product line - and perhaps an all new chassis model - is sure to follow once the kinks are worked out of the new facility. Owner Lynn Tilden is determined to be a major competitor in the fire apparatus industry.
And just recently E-ONE confirmed that it too is searching for new manufacturing space, probably a whole new plant, in the Ocala, Fla., area.
E-ONE under President Marc Gustafson has stabilized its production flow and greatly reduced delivery times compared to five years ago. The company represents about 40 percent of parent Federal Signal's (FSS-NYSE) gross revenues.
Currently E-ONE's production facilities consist of a series of buildings originally constructed for other purposes. The time for a change is right if the company is going to maintain its position as the country's second largest apparatus builder behind Pierce.
A modern facility and the far-thinking vision of a guy like Gustafson is what the company needs at this time. Expect a plant construction announcement sometime in 2007.
In early December Bud Smock, owner and president of PL Custom/Rescue 1, emergency vehicle manufacturer from Manasquan, N.J., died unexpectedly of a heart attack. The company will continue in business under his daughter Deb Thompson and his wife, Jean Smock. PL Custom/Rescue 1 has been building ambulances and rescue trucks for 60 years and broke ground for a 25,000-square-foot plant addition in 2006.
Always a family-owned business, PL Custom will carry on, although Bud will be sorely missed. Bud was 76 and, as Alan Saulsbury commented, "one of the finest 'gentlemen' in our industry."
Saulsbury, who owned Saulsbury Fire Apparatus in Preble, N.Y. until he sold it a few years ago to E-ONE, added, "Bud was a Class A businessman and it was an absolute pleasure to work with him and his company. He was in the same league as Tom Sutphen, Bill Darley, Bud Simpson and Dick Young - a whole generation of 'class people.'"