Chassis Components, Engine Company, Fire Department

Interschutz 2010: The Largest Fire Trade Show (Part 2)

Issue 9 and Volume 15.

Outside of North America, rear-mount pumps are standard, and electronic pump panels are quickly becoming the norm.
Outside of North America, rear-mount pumps are standard, and electronic pump panels are quickly becoming the norm.
A few apparatus on display built on a bus-style chassis by Mercedes- Benz.
A few apparatus on display built on a bus-style chassis by Mercedes- Benz. Cab entrance and egress were greatly improved over traditional European chassis. (Fire Apparatus Photos by Robert Tutterow)
This is the typical configuration and size of a European pumper.
This is the typical configuration and size of a European pumper, but this one has chrome wheels. Notice the extra fluorescent yellow trim and the running lights on this Scandinavian unit. Their winters have very long nights.
A rear-facing reverse light mounted on a mirror bracket was a feature on numerous trucks.
A rear-facing reverse light mounted on a mirror bracket was a feature on numerous trucks.
Rosenbauer displayed units with cab steps that swung out as the door opened.
Rosenbauer displayed units with cab steps that swung out as the door opened. The step locks into place when weight is applied. Notice the grab rails.

In June in Leipzig, Germany, a man was looking at one of the few American pumpers on display at Interschutz’s outside exhibits. It was a custom pumper, very typical of what is used in North America. He commented, “It’s a big ugly beast, isn’t it?”

The remark was amusing because he was looking at a pumper with chrome wheels and an abundance of polished aluminum treadplate and stainless steel. For most of the world’s fire service, the words “shiny” and “fire truck” aren’t used in the same sentence.

European pumpers are about as drab as our military vehicles. The only two paint colors European manufacturers need in their inventory are red and a little black. We Americans definitely have a different definition of “ugly,” but most of the world’s fire departments have adopted the European design.

Overall, their pumpers are a bit smaller than our pumpers, especially in length. They are exclusively cab-overengine design for both commercial and custom chassis. Rarely is there a cab with less than four doors. Of the hundreds of apparatus on display, there were none with extended front bumpers other than one or two U.S.-made units. It is interesting that they seem to see no value in something so common in the States.

Another striking difference in appearance is that European-style pumpers have no hosebed or pre-connect crosslays. In Europe most structures are clustered in small villages, mid-size towns and large cities. Because of the density of housing within these clusters, underground water systems have fire department connections within a few feet of every structure. There are no aboveground hydrants. It is rare to find a house with acreage.

To access water mains, firefighters lift covers (similar to water meter covers) and connect risers – about three feet tall – to the underground systems. Carried on every pumper, the lightweight aluminum risers have two Storz connections for connecting the equivalent of two 2-1/2-inch supply hoses. Consequently, they have no reason to carry large amounts of supply line.

No Tankers

There are no tankers (water tenders) in European service delivery. A typical pumper will probably carry no more than 400 feet of 2-1/2-inch hose that is “donut rolled” and stored in a compartment. The hose might also be used as an attack line. The primary attack lines are 1-inch non-collapsible rubber and preconnected to reels, similar to our booster reels. Their engines have no master stream appliances, either mounted or portable. Those are only found on their aerials.

In rural areas or areas without underground systems, they rely on portable pumps. The pumps are typically in the 1,000-gpm range and are commonly carried on engines that respond to those areas. Since they have no tankers, they do not use water shuttles or drop tanks. With all this said, you might wonder about their combat readiness. Their system is effective for two primary reasons – culture and building construction. The general population is very fire safe, with fire prevention embedded in their DNA. With their lack of forestland and subsequent short supply of lumber, their structures are primarily masonry, including the interior walls. Almost all fires are contained within the room of origin. This lends itself very well to their high-pressure 1-inch attack lines.

The pumps on their engines are always located at the rear of the apparatus. A striking change at Interschutz from the 2005 show was the extensive use of electronic pump panels. (Interschutz occurs once every five years in Germany, and this year it drew 125,000 people.) In 2005, there were only one or two electronic pump panels on display, and this year there seemed to be more electronic pump panels than mechanical ones.

Compartments

The compartment arrangement on their pumpers is very basic and standard. There are three on each side of the pumper body – one in front, above and behind each rear wheel well. The compartments extend from the bottom of the body frame to its top, all high-side. Roll-up doors are used exclusively for the compartments, just as has they have been for decades. Ground ladders are stowed flat on top of the body and accessed from the rear.

European and Asian manufacturers continue to be masters of using every available cubic inch of storage space for equipment. Each interior compartment is customized for the equipment carried in that compartment. Maximum use is made of roll-out trays and drawers, vertically- hinged equipment racks, and custom storage boxes. American manufacturers have definitely taken notice as many U.S. pumpers are now designed with very well-organized compartments.

The body material of the trucks on display at Interschutz was made of either composite or aluminum. It appears composite bodies are steadily gaining market share, and some American manufacturers now offer them. They seem to make a lot of sense as they will not corrode, are easily repaired and have the appearance of typical metal bodies.

Most of the European apparatus cabs sit very high. Entrance and egress are difficult, almost a 90-degree climb from ground to cab floor on most units. They do provide extensive grab rails in strategic locations for assistance.

Perhaps they are beginning to acknowledge the steep climbing issue because Rosenbauer was displaying units with the cab door and steps integrated. When the door opens, curved steps mounted on a vertical hinge swivel outward with the door. The configuration provides large steps at an ergonomically improved angle for entrance and egress. When a firefighter puts weight on the swivel steps, they lock into position to prevent movement.

Mercedes-Benz had several units on display with bus-style doors installed on the cabs. In every case, the cab was very low to the ground and cab entrance and egress was considerably better than their traditional designs.

In 2005, there was on truck on display with a diffused light mounted on the mirror bracket facing rearward. The light was activated when the transmission was put in reverse, enabling the driver to see the area immediately along either side of the apparatus while backing. In addition, it enabled the view of rear spotters. At this year’s show, there were numerous trucks with this feature. With all the backing accidents involving apparatus, this has to be worthy of consideration.

Next month, we will look at aerials, PPE and other equipment displayed at Interschutz.

Editor’s Note: Robert Tutterow is safety coordinator for the Charlotte (N.C.) Fire Department. His 34-year career includes 10 as a volunteer. He has been very active with the National Fire Protection Association through service on the Fire Service Section Executive Board and technical committees involved with safety, apparatus and personal protective equipment. He is a founding member and president of the Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization (F.I.E.R.O.).

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