The Washburn (Ill.) Fire Protection District’s Alexis Snozzle
Hydra-Sword pumper is built on a Sterling Acterra 2-door cab
and chassis and has a Waterous CSU 150 1,500-gpm pump
and a UPF 750-gallon poly tank.
The Alexis Snozzle Hydra-Sword in action during training.
The working end of the Washburn Alexis Snozzle pumper is
equipped with a piercing tip, a 500-gpm nozzle and a
The pump panel has a clean layout.
Washburn Fire Protection District Chief Jess Erkman and his Board of Trustees faced a quandary when considering the purchase of a new piece of apparatus.
They wanted an elevated waterway so they wouldn’t have to put firefighters on the roof of a structure, and they wanted a vehicle that could be operated with limited manpower. In addition, they wanted something that could handle penetration into metal-sheathed factories and warehouses in their Washburn, Ill., fire district.
Chief Erkman, the trustees and the truck committee were torn between a straight stick and an articulating boom, and found the answer to all their needs with the purchase of an Alexis 65-foot Snozzle Hydra-Sword pumper.
“We were looking for a vehicle with an elevated waterway that was safe for the firefighters,” Erkman said. “We also wanted something that was simple to operate, requiring only one firefighter to run it, and quick to set up.”
The chief said the district had purchased several vehicles from Alexis Fire Equipment of Alexis, Ill., and was pleased with the equipment and service.
“They’ve always taken great care of us,” he said. “So after we did our research and found that the Snozzle was what we wanted, we had them build the truck for us.”
Erkman, a 24-year veteran of the department who has served the past 12 years as chief, noted he and members of the truck committee were able to examine a Snozzle and review its applications at the Fire Department Instructors Conference trade show in Indianapolis, Ind., in 2009.
Alexis Fire Equipment president Jeff Morris said Washburn Fire Protection District officials “told us the application they wanted to get into and we built them a Snozzle… It was a natural fit for us because we had the long relationship with the customer, and also with Crash Rescue, so it worked out well.”
The Snozzle is made by Crash Rescue Equipment Service Inc. in Dallas, Texas. It’s an elevated water tower built on a lightweight telescoping and articulating system with a rotating base. The unit is designed as an initial attack tool and for master stream application.
Grady North, vice president of business development and strategy for Crash Rescue, said the Snozzle unit mounts midship behind a pumper’s cab.
“By mounting it midship, we’re able to keep everything else relatively standard,” North said. “From the pump back, the pumper can be standardized, which is a feature most fire departments like.”
Both the lower and upper boom on the Snozzle articulate, North noted, and the unit has a 20-foot telescoping section in the upper boom to allow the operator more flexibility in getting around obstacles, such as trees and power lines.
“With a straight stick [aerial ladder] you have limited maneuverability, especially in narrow, tree-lined streets,” North said. “But the knuckle on the Snozzle gives added flexibility and allows the operator to maneuver around things where an aerial
He noted that the Snozzle also can operate 15 feet below grade level, allowing it to penetrate into basements.
“We consider the Snozzle an option to go on a standard pumper as opposed to being another aerial device,” North pointed out. “It doesn’t take any more manpower to operate than a standard pumper, because the pump operator is also the Snozzle operator.”
The Snozzle also is available with a forward looking infrared (FLIR) ball camera mounted on the tip of the upper nozzle for size-up and rescue operations, although the Washburn district did not choose that option.
The 65-foot Snozzle purchased by Washburn is Crash Rescue’s HS 2 model, which has two master stream nozzles – one at the 65-foot elevation and the second at the 50-foot elevation. Total flow capacity is 1,500 gpm, with 500 gpm coming from the top nozzle and 1,000 gpm from the mid-level nozzle. Both nozzles are remotely controlled by an operator on the ground.
“The two nozzles allow the fire department the flexibility to attack a fire with one nozzle while protecting exposures with the second,” North pointed out, “or to use both nozzles to attack the fire.”
One of those nozzles is a piercing nozzle, Chief Erkman noted, which is important to Washburn firefighters if they have to fight a fire in one of several metal-skinned buildings. One of those structures is a varnish and ink factory, while the others are large metal warehouses and shops.
“When we found the Snozzle, we knew we wanted the piercing nozzle because of those structures,” the chief said. “And while we haven’t pierced anything with it yet in a fire, we’ve been training with it and think it will fulfill our needs.”
Crash Rescue sells Snozzle units to manufacturers to put on their pumpers and also will build the units onto a chassis in Dallas. Washburn’s unit was built at Crash Rescue’s Dallas facility. When it was completed, a three-man team headed by Washburn First Lt. Brett Erkman, the chief’s son, traveled to Texas to inspect the work and receive initial training.
“We had to drive the truck from Dallas to Alexis,” Brett Erkman said. “It was quite the sight to see, and we had people looking twice at us because it was only the cab, chassis, pedestal and waterway rolling down the road.”
Morris of Alexis said that once Washburn officials decided what they wanted, his firm designed the pumper around the Snozzle.
“We used our AutoCAD program,” he said, “and designed the pumping capacity, water capacity and compartments they needed, and put it together with what Crash Rescue built.”
Morris pointed out that most Alexis Fire Equipment units are custom built to customer needs, although the company does make some standard units.
“Mostly we work with departments to design the truck the way they want,” he said. “We’ll work it up through the design process, make a presentation with our design, then tweak it with anything else they want and build it for them.”
The usual build time is about 12 months for a vehicle like Washburn’s truck.
“Washburn wanted to make payments at certain times, so due to funding issues this took longer than 12 months,” Morris said, “but we’re always willing to work with departments and be flexible.”
Chief Erkman thinks all of his 28 volunteer firefighters eventually will become trained operators on the Snozzle Hydra-Sword pumper, something that is a boon to a small department covering a mostly rural area. He said approximately half of his firefighters had completed the training.
“We cover about 90 square miles with only three towns in it,” he said. “Washburn is the largest town with 1,250 residents, and there are two other smaller towns – Lowpoint and La Rose.”
The chief’s son, Brett Erkman, sees the most important advantage to the new vehicle as the fact it only needs a single firefighter to operate it.
“You might have another firefighter or two help set it up, but then they can staff another truck,” he said. “When we have a 15-minute response time to a call out in the boonies, we usually end up with a defensive battle, and the truck is set up to handle that well.”
Lt. Erkman said once the stabilizers are set out on the truck, the rest of the operation can be done using a remote control unit with its joysticks.
“It’s not hard to operate at all,” he said. “It’s pretty much joysticks and video game-type work. The truck is very user friendly in its movements as long as you ease your way into it.”
Chief Erkman noted that while the department had not had an opportunity to use the Snozzle on a fire, his firefighters have spent a lot of hours training on it.
“It’s an important piece of equipment to have if we want to keep firefighters out of a house, especially on daytime calls where we might only get six firefighters for a structure fire,” he said. “We’re looking to use it as an offensive attack unit, but when we’re out in the rural areas, it’s mostly defensive battles.”
Chief Erkman praised the trustees for their support, saying the district “is blessed with great trustees who give us the equipment we need.”
Washburn Fire Protection District, Washburn, Ill.
Strength: 28 volunteer firefighters; one station providing fire suppression and emergency responses; 40 calls annually (medical responses handled by separate ambulance service); 150-plus medical calls.
Service area: Mostly rural area covering approximately 90 square miles, including Washburn (population 1,250) and two smaller towns.
Other apparatus: 2008 Alexis Sterling pumper, 1,000-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon tank; 2004 Alexis quick attack truck with custom-built hydraulically-driven 250-gpm pump, 400-gallon tank; 2002 Alexis 16-foot-body rescue truck with light tower and 25,000-watt generator; 1998 Alexis 4×4 pumper, 1,000-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon tank, turret with Akron monitor; 1990 Pierce pumper, 1,000-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon tank; 1965 Alexis pumper, 500-gpm front mount pump, 1,000-gallon tank; two Ford chassis tankers, 3,800-gallons and 4,100 gallons; 2001 Ford Excursion chief’s vehicle; two BLS ambulances.
Alexis Fire Equipment 65-foot Snozzle Hydra-Sword Pumper
• Sterling Acterra 2-door cab and chassis
• Cummins ISC-330, 330-hp diesel engine
• Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmission
• Heavy-duty 3/16-inch aluminum body
• 11-feet, 7-inch overall height
• 31-feet, 11-inch overall length
• 219-inch wheelbase
• Waterous CSU 150 1,500-gpm pump
• Multiple position Snozzle water tower with dual nozzles and 44-inch piercing attachment
• UPF 750-gallon poly tank
• One 2 1/2-inch rear tank fill
• Two 2 1/2-inch gated suctions (one each side)
• Four 2 1/2-inch discharges (two left side, one right side, one rear)
• One 3-inch discharge (right side) and one 4-inch discharge for waterway.
• One 1 1/2-inch Mattydale preconnect
• Box-type doors each side with rear R-O-M roll-up door
• Two suction hose compartments with rear access
• Ladder brackets and pike pole tube on right side compartment tops
• Vanner on-board battery charger/conditioner
• Kussmaul super auto-eject 120-volt shoreline
• Kussmaul air eject
• Audiovox back-up camera with 7-inch color monitor
• Two Extenda-Lite 12-volt 150-watt telescopic HID lights
• Two rear area Unity deck lights
• Two Unity cab spotlights
• Code-3 warning light package
• Code-3 electronic siren with 100-watt Federal speaker
• Two Grover air horns, front bumper
Price: $420,000 without equipment