Fire Department, Pumpers, Tankers

Fire Industry Today

Issue 9 and Volume 11.

This month most of the industry will be well represented at the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ annual conference and trade show, Fire Rescue International (FRI), set for Dallas, Texas. The trade show, usually held in August, used to be the venue where manufacturers introduced significant new products for the year ahead. But FRI has been overshadowed in recent years by the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference held in March or April in Indianapolis.

But be sure to check out a few displays for special announcements, including Pierce Fire Apparatus and Elkhart Brass. “Something big” is coming from Pierce and where it will fit into the overall product line is pure speculation at this point.

When Pierce – the nation’s leading apparatus manufacturer by far in annual volume – says it’s going to make a significant unveiling at the annual IAFC show, the news spreads quickly and gets a lot of insider attention. Of course we don’t know any more about it than the rest of you (right!), but we’re going to be there for sure. And we strongly suggest anyone contemplating a new apparatus purchase within the next couple of years might find it worthwhile to drop by the Pierce exhibit too!

While the initial introduction at FDIC of the new European-designed SCBA seat by Rosenbauer, available in Central and General model apparatus, attracted little notice at the time, it really is in the spotlight today. The current interest in firefighter safety and the groundswell from within the fire service to do something significant to increase seat belt use by firefighters has brought the new seat to the forefront.

Don’t miss the chance to try it out if you are attending the Dallas show. See the photo and full description of this new seat printed as a sidebar to a comprehensive story in this issue by Gordon Routley on developing user-friendly SCBA seats.

We are pleased to add Chief Richard Marinucci of Farmington Hills, Mich., to our staff of regular contributors. His bi-monthly column starts in this issue.

Marinucci served as IAFC President in the late 1990s and as a Senior Advisor to FEMA Director James Lee Witt. He was also Acting Director of the United States Fire Administration (USFA) for seven months in 1999 while the government searched for a new director, eventually choosing R. David Paulison.

Chief Marinucci is well-known in the fire service for the various seminars and training sessions he has presented around the country.

The City of Boston has a new fire chief, Kevin P. MacCurtain, and with the new administration comes a return to purchasing Emergency One (E-ONE) apparatus. E-ONE had supplied virtually all Boston pumpers and aerials from 1984 until 2001 when Chief Paul Christian was appointed to replace retiring Chief/Commissioner Martin Pierce.

Christian liked Pierce products, so suddenly the specifications changed and Boston began buying several Pierce All-Steer pumpers and aerials. The All-Steer units featured steerable rear wheels, which Christian felt would be an advantage on Boston’s narrow streets. But Pierce discontinued the All-Steer option after a series of maintenance problems across the country over several years.

Chief Christian was actually forced out of office, resigning earlier this year when facing a vote of “no-confidence” from the union, Local 718, IAFF.

Appointment of MacCurtain – who rose within the ranks – earlier this year by Mayor Thomas Menino was heartily welcomed by rank and file firefighters. MacCurtain’s first apparatus order includes a Pierce heavy rescue that’s been on the drafting boards for some time, but also a return to E-ONE for pumpers. First ordered is a high-end custom E-ONE Cyclone II the 104th E-ONE to be ordered by Boston since 1984.

The new pumper will have a 1,250 gpm pump, a 500-gallon water tank and a 425 hp diesel engine driving an Allison EVS3000 transmission. Warning lights will be all LEDs and there will be a 2,600-watt inverter included for scene lighting.

The new pumper bid was won by Greenwood Emergency Vehicles of North Attleboro, Mass., the company that supplied and serviced Boston’s E-ONE fleet for 17 years prior to the switch to a Pierce spec.

Greenwood’s strength has been its extensive, modern service facility with a highly trained crew of mechanics, fire pump and aerial apparatus specialists. In fact, for many years Greenwood completely rebuilt all E-ONEs traded back by Boston and had a waiting list of Massachusetts and Rhode Island communities in line to buy them.

Greenwood’s owner and president Tim O’Neill said he was very pleased to be back working with Boston again and that they had just completed a pre-build conference at the Ocala, Fla., E-ONE plant with the Chief MacCurtain.

Since March, just about all of the 301 model year 2005 and 2006 fire trucks equipped with Cummins ISL 850 diesel engines have been repaired or replaced under warranty by Cummins.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) those engines were made with failure-prone connecting rods. A broken connecting rod ultimately results in an unanticipated underwear change for the apparatus driver.

A broken connecting rod leads to piston pin seizure followed by a loud noise as lotsa bad stuff happens in two seconds or less. Oil and parts suddenly appear all over the place, instrument panel gauges jump off either end of the scale, warning lights flash and buzzers sound as the operator applies the brakes and bails out along with the officer and the rest of the crew.

Well, the official notice didn’t quite put it that way, but, in typical government-speak, the NHTSA said: “The connecting rods which transfer energy from the piston to the crankshaft are defective and can result in seizure of the piston pin. A piston pin seizure can result in a mission-disabling engine failure. This condition could ultimately result in a loss of vehicle power (engine stall) increasing the risk of a crash.”

In case you have limited knowledge of diesel engines, connecting rods are six heavy steel thingys which go up and down between 1,300 and 2,000 times a minute when the fuel burns and produce up to 400 hp to turn the fire truck’s wheels – or the main fire pump. The ISL 850 is specific to fire trucks for its high torque output – which means it has the power to move a heavily loaded vehicle from a standstill to road speed of 50 mph or so in a very short time.

Much credit goes to Cummins for packaging complete component replacement kits and sending out teams or calling in affected vehicles for a quick repair turnaround.

There were 66 Pierce Enforcer and Saber models affected, 79 E-ONE Typhoons and Cyclone IIs, 75 HME Model 1871 and SFOs and 81 Spartan 2006 chassis used by several apparatus builders subject to the recall.

At press time, all the E-ONE and Pierce apparatus with the Cummins ISL engines had been retrofitted and a spokesperson for Cummins said the project was close to 100-percent complete.

We can’t miss the opportunity to call attention to the Boston order for a 1,250 gpm pump in view of all the high-volume pumper deliveries reported each month on our “Now In Service” pages. What do fire departments do with all these 1,750 gpm and 2000+ gpm municipal pumpers anyway?

In our view, the 1,250 gpm pump is the smartest choice for all departments no matter what the size. If Boston and New York don’t have the water supply to routinely feed a pump larger than 1,250 gpm, what city does?

When would that much water ever be needed by multiple engine companies? Boston runs three engines and two ladder trucks on all box alarms and all phone alarms for structure fires at night. Let’s see, 1,250 x 3 equals 3,750 gallons per minute using the first-alarm companies only!

Assuming it’s a waterfront fire and Boston remembers how to draft, those first three engine companies can supply a tower ladder operating a 1,000 gpm master stream, a deck gun delivering 1,000 gpm, plus seven 2.5-inch handlines with 15/16ths inch smoothbore nozzles.

Manpower needed: 3 pump operators, two firefighters for the aerial stream, and another for the deck gun – that’s six thus far – plus 21 for the seven handlines for a total of 28.

If three 1,250 gpm pumps operating at full capacity from draft can supply enough water to work 28 firefighters operating nine large streams, what department has the manpower to utilize three 1,750 gpm pumpers instead? They could deliver another 1,500 gpm of fire flow which, if fed into handlines, would put at lest five more streams into operation, needing another 15 firefighters.

So all three engine companies would need to be 10-man cab units and one truck would carry seven and the other six firefighters on a first-alarm response of two trucks and three engines.

The number of people who have seen three 1,250 gpm city pumpers all delivering maximum gallons-per-minute capacity before extra alarms are sounded for manpower alone is…well, z-e-r-o!

The scenario is unrealistic. But the economics of buying even higher capacity pumpers is even harder to understand.

Municipal fire department pumps are made in two basic sizes – those up to 1,250 gpm, and then those from 1,500 to 2,000+ gpm. The larger pumps require larger intakes, larger internal piping and more discharges, all of which makes them much more expensive and less and less likely to be ever used at capacity, since they are never needed at that level.

In a future issue we’d like to have those who’ve paid for 1,750 gpm and 2,000 gpm pumps debate, in writing, how they justify them to their taxpayers. Two 1,250 gpm pumpers can deliver 500 gpm more than a single 2,000 gpm pump.

Even if you’re providing fire protection for an island with several six- or seven-story buildings – and have no bridge to the mainland for rapid mutual aid response – you are far better off running two 1,250 pumps and a double master stream aerial platform than operating two 2,000 gpm pumpers.

Water supply and manpower are always going to be your limiting factors long before you need more than 2,500 gpm of pumping capacity from a pair of 1,250 pumps.

Any of you 1,750 gpm chiefs care to reply? Even you located on “outer moons” such as places like Key West?

More Fire Apparatus Current Issue Articles
More Fire Apparatus Archives Issue Articles