Engine Company, Fire Department, Lighting Warning Scene Portable

The Rochester (NY) Fire Department’s Apparatus Purchasing Committee

Issue 6 and Volume 17.

(1-2) Front bumper crosslays were undersized and difficult to deploy and repack. In these photos, the forward lay was shorted one length of hose to facilitate deployment from either side.
(1-2) Front bumper crosslays were undersized and difficult to deploy and repack. In these photos, the forward lay was shorted one length of hose to facilitate deployment from either side.
(1-2) Front bumper crosslays were undersized and difficult to deploy and repack. In these photos, the forward lay was shorted one length of hose to facilitate deployment from either side. (Photos by author.)
(3) Eliminating the rear discharge and piping rear preconnects to the front of the hosebed impedes breaking and lengthening preconnected lines.
(3) Eliminating the rear discharge and piping rear preconnects to the front of the hosebed impedes breaking and lengthening preconnected lines.
(4) Firefighters disliked preconnecting 50 feet of large-diameter hose on the right pump panel for making big fire hookups, preferring the traditional front bumper connection.
(4) Firefighters disliked preconnecting 50 feet of large-diameter hose on the right pump panel for making big fire hookups, preferring the traditional front bumper connection.
(5) The only access to the rear hosebed was via three folding steps at the left rear of the apparatus. Members complained about the short rear step and "short-loaded" the left-side supply line to provide a stepping area to access the hosebed.
(5) The only access to the rear hosebed was via three folding steps at the left rear of the apparatus. Members complained about the short rear step and “short-loaded” the left-side supply line to provide a stepping area to access the hosebed.
(6) The full-height cabinet located immediately behind the driver's seat restricted vision for members riding in both the front and rear of the cab.
(6) The full-height cabinet located immediately behind the driver’s seat restricted vision for members riding in both the front and rear of the cab.
(7) Members noted access steps to the cab were not "staggered," making it difficult to exit.
(7) Members noted access steps to the cab were not “staggered,” making it difficult to exit.
(8) Reserve Engine 13 shows a traditional large rear work platform (tailboard) and intermediate rear step favored by firefighters to access and load the hosebed. The rear 2½-inch discharge with a leader line wye was also requested to facilitate making, breaking, and adding handlines.
(8) Reserve Engine 13 shows a traditional large rear work platform (tailboard) and intermediate rear step favored by firefighters to access and load the hosebed. The rear 2½-inch discharge with a leader line wye was also requested to facilitate making, breaking, and adding handlines.

Bill Adams

This article illustrates how one mid-sized municipal fire department addressed the concerns of its members when purchasing new apparatus. The City of Rochester, New York, encompasses 37 square miles on Lake Ontario. For three decades, the ISO Class 2 career Rochester (NY) Fire Department (RFD) operated under a quint and midi (Q&M) deployment consisting of nine Q&M companies, eight engine companies, and a heavy rescue company, while also providing a career driver for a volunteer-staffed salvage company. The midi-pumpers-short-wheelbased commercial chassis Class A engines with seating for two-responded alone for emergency medical service (EMS) responses, vehicle fires, and nuisance calls. On structural assignments they operated as hose wagons, laying feeder lines for the quints. Staffing was six per Q&M, four on the engines and rescue, and the driver for the salvage. Ninety-one career firefighters per shift rode the apparatus. Command, support, and staff personnel vehicles are not included in this article.

Prior to adopting the Q&M concept, the department operated traditional engine and truck (ladder) companies. In the early 1970s, 700 personnel staffed 25 engines, 10 trucks, the salvage, and an attack squad (for personnel). It later created another attack squad and a snorkel company, but they were disbanded soon after because of budgetary constraints. The attack squad evolved into the heavy rescue. A private contractor provides ambulance service, with the fire department providing first responder EMS. In 2011, EMS accounted for about 50 percent of the department’s 32,226 runs.

In the late 1970s, Rochester experienced a declining population, increased fire load, eroding inner city, mushrooming EMS calls, and severe budget cuts. The Q&M concept allowed the department to downsize without closing stations. Staffing in 2000 was down to 540; at the time of this writing, there were 468 uniformed personnel.

New Transition

In 2008, the department began a four-year transition back to a traditional engine and truck company configuration with 13 engines, six trucks, the rescue, and salvage running from 15 stations. Each company is staffed with four firefighters along with the driver for the salvage. A confined space unit, a water rescue unit, and two hazmat vehicles are staffed by the companies they are housed with. A minimum of 81 firefighters per shift ride the rigs. In-service apparatus were reduced from 28 to 21.

Recent Purchases

Apparatus were traditionally purchased on a low-bid basis using generic specifications, and most were from a single manufacturer. However, a 2006 purchase of two engines went to a different builder. In 2008, the department formed an apparatus purchasing committee for the purchase of three quints and four job-specific engines (two foam-pumpers and two rescue-pumpers). Yet another manufacturer was low bid on the engines.

Significant firematic changes to the department’s traditional designs included the dual 1¾-inch crosslays on the last four engines and three quints purchased moving to the front bumper. The single 2½-inch rear discharge on the engines was moved to the front of the hosebed for a preconnect, and the engines’ front suctions were eliminated. Provisions for big fire hookups for all seven rigs were made with a single 50-foot length of large-diameter hose (LDH) stored in a running board hose trough preconnected to a piston intake relief on the passenger’s side steamer inlet.

The Survey

Although resistance to change is expected, many firefighters and officers were vocal in voicing valid operational and safety concerns with the latest purchases. Chief John D. Caufield authorized a survey “based on the need to implement the current RFD reorganization, to replace aging engines, and to revitalize the reserve fleet.” One committee member described it as an “evaluation and wrap-up of the 2008 committee’s efforts while serving as a kick-off for the 2010 committee.” The 2010 apparatus purchasing committee included both a deputy chief and a battalion chief from the line division, a captain from the fire academy (staff side), an engine company captain, a lieutenant from a Q&M company, two firefighters (one from the heavy rescue and one from an engine company), a lieutenant from special operations (staff side), and the superintendent of apparatus.

It developed a questionnaire to rate the performance and design of the recent purchases. The department had operational experience with the new firematic layouts and the design and features of two manufacturers of complete apparatus, as well as one that used an outsourced custom cab. The survey was divided into four specific areas: hosebed, body, pump panel, and cab. It asked approximately 60 specific questions with “check off” responses of “Very Unsatisfactory,” “Unsatisfactory,” “Acceptable,” “Satisfactory,” and “Very Satisfactory.” The committee distributed it via e-mail to all department members. Some results follow.

Hosebeds. Members wanted the return of the rear discharge, increased capacity for both supply line and attack line beds, and multiple attack lines off the rear. Members disliked the front bumper preconnects and the heights of all hosebeds.

Body. Features desired were full-height compartments for increased compartmentation, enclosed ground ladder storage, and roll-up doors. Disliked features were access to the top of the apparatus, the size of the rear work platform (tailboard or rear step), and tool mounting. Participants were equally divided in the preference of an on-board generator.

Pump Panel. Desirable features were the overall layout of existing pump panels, analog-style gauges, and the number of pump panel discharges. The most disliked features were the side-mounted piston intake relief valve and the single 50-foot length of LDH for big fire hookups.

Cab. LED warning lights, LED scene lighting, and a mechanical siren were the favorite features of the cab. The least favorite was the riding space inside the cab for the officer’s position, followed by the driver’s position, then the hydrant position. The location and size of an EMS storage cabinet in the crew cab, cab entrance steps, and the restraint system for the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) seats also rated poorly.

Action

The apparatus committee reviewed the survey’s results and participants’ comments and met with multiple vendors. It generated what one member referred to as performance specifications and, after review by staff and command, they were put out to bid. Four manufacturers responded, and the contract was awarded to one that had not previously supplied engines to the department.

As a direct result of members’ input, the following features were included in the specifications for the new engines:

1. Front bumper crosslays relocated to the forward portion of the midship pump house with a maximum allowable height of 66 inches from ground level.
2. The front suction with swiveling elbow returned to the front bumper with storage space for two 25-foot lengths of LDH.
3. The rear hosebed to be no higher than 67 inches from ground level.
4. A 15-inch-wide full-length walkway provided in the hosebed between the two beds of supply line.
5. A 48-inch-long permanent intermediate step specified at the rear along with one folding step on each side.
6. Two 2½-inch discharges specified at the rear body panel-one with adequate space to attach a 2½-inch wye that reduces to two 1½-inch outlets.
7. Minimum widths at hip level and a minimum amount of foot room specified at the officer’s and driver’s seating positions.
8. Redesigned interior compartment in the crew cab with a maximum allowable height of four inches above the top of the dog house to not obstruct the views of the driver and riders.
9. Increased rear step depth from 12 to 18 inches.
10. Full-height and full-depth equipment compartments with roll-up doors provided on the driver’s side.
11. All chassis and body lighting to be LED, including warning and scene lighting.
12. All gauges to be analog. Pump panel layout was not altered.

Specification Verbiage

There are several examples of changes in the department’s specifications. For instance, the previous specification mandated specific dimensions for the main hosebed, whereas the 2010 spec detailed the capacity of each bed and a minimum size for the walkway.

Former specs had specific sizes for the crosslays with a maximum height of 70 inches, whereas the 2010 document specified capacity only with a 66-inch height requirement. A specific size was given for the crew cab EMS compartment before, and the 2010 spec mandated only a maximum height so as not to interfere with visibility. The new specifications require that crosslay and front bumper hose storage covers must close with all hose inside.

The latest specification further addressed members’ concerns for safety in that:

• A slide-out step was specified on each side of the pump panel to facilitate loading the crosslays.

• An additional slide-out step was allowed at the rear work platform if the minimum 18-inch depth could not be met with a manufacturer’s standard methods of construction.

• The hosebed dividers forming the sides of the walkway had to be anchored at each end of the walkway-specifically to the side sheet at the rear step area.

• Vertical steps into the cab have to be vertically staggered.

Ultimately, seven new engines were purchased and were being placed into service at the time of this writing. At a later date, a full review and evaluation of their performance will be featured. It is interesting to note that in 1942, the city acquired the Rochester Fire Equipment Company and its employees, who started building apparatus for the city in 1945. The former owner later became the superintendent of apparatus. Thirty pumpers were built for the city, ending in the mid 1960s. Historical information for this article was from The Finest Tradition-The History of the Rochester Fire Department by retired Captain Dan McBride.

BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman, a past chief, and an active member of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 45 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.


Comments Welcome

The Rochester (NY) Fire Department (RFD) questionnaire included a box under each major heading where members could leave specific comments-and they did, to the tune of about about 300 comments. The RFD allowed a review of the written comments. “Dislikes” were numerous and consistent. Some, with justification and reasoning in the firefighters’ own words, follow.

Front Bumper Preconnects

You don’t gain any advantage by having the preconnects on the front bumper. If anything, it slows the attack operation down. At that position, it is a little less convenient to grab the tip and extra hose and place it on your shoulder as opposed the traditional placement of the mid-mounted preconnects.

• • •

When pulling hose off the bumper, it isn’t at shoulder height like on the crosslays. You end up carrying it like a purse, so it’s hard for the hose to flake out.

• • •

We gained nothing by putting the attack lines on the bumper. It seems they are difficult to deploy, and hose doesn’t pack back in as it should.

• • •

Hose must be rolled to squeeze air out before reloading to fit in hosebed and close the cover. Front bumper hosebed is way undersized. Wet/used hose will not fit properly.

• • •

The front bumper lines are difficult to use. They are too low and make it difficult to get the hose onto your shoulder.

Rear 2½-Inch Discharge

A rear discharge is much needed because the ability to break a line and plug it into the rear is a huge time saver. With the new rigs, the driver has to break the line and run it to the pump panel, which takes time and is more of a tripping hazard to the driver when operating the pump.

• • •

The rescue pumper rear hosebed height is too tall and too difficult to access. The nozzles fit poorly in between the narrow hose dividers in the rear hosebed. A rear discharge would be a good thing. While it is nice having the rear lines preconnected, it is rare that the entire bed is used.

• • •

I like how we have multiple 1¾-inch lines off the back. I think that is a big improvement for us. If the hosebed was significantly lowered and we went back to rear discharges with gated wyes instead of preconnects, the hosebed would be perfect.

• • •

The rear discharge on the engines must be returned to service. This, in conjunction with lowering the height of the rear hosebeds, allows us to effectively continue to use the very common, successful practice of pulling past the fire building, evaluating three sides of the structure, and stretching hoseline efficiently from the rear hosebed.

• • •

The rear 1¾-inch preconnect should be on a gated wye located beyond the rear edge of the hosebed. This would allow the line to be broken/lengthened as necessary.

Passenger-Side LDH Intake

Side intake for LDH is not the best idea, in my opinion. Fifty feet is too long and takes up too much of a city street. The hose, once charged, is unable to be moved safely.

• • •

The front-end connection was more convenient and easier for one person to set up quickly.

• • •

Go back to a front-end connection and hose bin. It is far more user-friendly and efficient for spotting, positioning for, and connecting a big fire hookup.

• • •

It can be difficult to judge how far to pull past or stop short of a hydrant to hook up with such a long length of hose on the pump panel.

• • •

Go back to the swivel-style front-end connection. They’re almost impossible to screw up. The new style is very cumbersome and, in some cases, takes two people to do it.

Rear Hosebed Height and Access

Height of the rear hosebed makes it hard to reach and difficult to load hose. Loading hose requires an extra person because of the height and the tailboard being narrow.

• • •

The height of the rear hosebed is ridiculous. The tailboard is narrow and very likely to become (if it has not already) a point of injury for firefighters climbing it to access/load the hose.

• • •

If possible, all of our supply and attack lines should be located at the rear of the apparatus. If this is not a realistic option, then the two side crosslays (Mattydale) should be returned to service at an easily manageable hosebed height.

• • •

The entire hose storage system needs to be rethought to go back to more traditional layouts that favor lower hosebeds. Pumpers are just that. They shouldn’t be small truck companies. Rescue-pumpers not only go against the tradition of extrication being considered along the same lines as forcible entry (traditional truck work), but they overload the vehicles with equipment that doesn’t serve the main purpose of carrying, making, and pumping water.

• • •

The rear hosebeds are just terrible. They are unsafe to get up and down from.

• • •

Access to the rear hosebed is difficult at first because of the hose covers. There should be a place for us to step safely to get on the top of the rig so that we can load the hose.

• • •

Access to the rear hosebed is the biggest issue here. It is very difficult to climb up to the hosebed in station uniform-worse with turnout gear.

• • •

Rear of engine should be a work space-real tailboards and steps, please.

• • •

Hosebed height is too high. The folding steps used to access the bed create a slip/fall hazard.

• • •

Supply bed is too high with too many steps. For safety, there should be a slip-resistant application applied to them because of our winter months.

• • •

Currently, the rear hosebeds are so high that they are an injury waiting to happen. It is impossible to safely load three-inch hose with a 12-inch tailboard.

Cab

EMS locker blocks visibility inside the cab for the driver and hydrant position (behind the driver facing forward). Center, forward-facing seats mounted on the back wall of the cab would be safer. Front-seat window handles contact driver’s and officer’s knees on a good day. God forbid the rig should get in an accident. It is impossible for the officer to put a pack on en route. The space is cramped in street clothes. Seat belt cannot be reached while seated; higher shoulder position needed.

• • •

Design of the doghouse is just poor. The officer’s seat, where I spend most of my time, borders on unusable unless wearing only fatigues. The width is way too narrow for average members, let alone someone my size. The seat belt connection is too short to be practical when in turnouts. The SCBA release is also unusable while in the seat in turnouts. I personally step out of the truck and don the SCBA outside of the rig. The step design is poor, as there is no natural flow to the design. The door doesn’t open enough to allow easy egress with the SCBA donned.

• • •

The EMS cabinet blocks the view for the hydrant position and impedes the rider’s ability to spot the hydrant and do an appropriate scene size-up.

• • •

The officer-side riding position is very cramped, especially for larger firefighters. I also found that the window crank constricts it even more because my knee is resting on the handle and not the door.

• • •

The SCBA restraint system does not work all the time. SCBAs always seem to come out of the locking device on the way to runs.

• • •

I do not like the step into and out of the cab. It is tough to find when exiting and is slippery when covered with ice. Steps to truck are unnatural, even after using them for a year.

Other Comments

I think keeping our engines small will be useful as we lose the midis. We need the engines to be nimble and able to squeeze around the apparatus and lay hose because we won’t have the smaller midi around to do it.

• • •

For our normal duty engine companies, we do not need generators and cord reels. I would prefer to see the ladders placed low on the officer’s side exterior of the body. If the short firefighter can reach them, everyone can reach them.

• • •

Items inevitably shift against [roll-up doors] from the inside while driving and jam the doors. High-rise packs and oversize items do the same all the time.

• • •

Warning alarms for doors and seat belts cause a distraction while giving on scene reports. The minute you arrive on scene and someone opens a door or unclicks a seat belt, it causes excess noise while trying to give an adequate report.

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