Alan M. Petrillo
A growing number of fire departments around the country are turning to pumper transport units as first response vehicles-rigs that can handle a first-due engine assignment or a high priority advanced life support emergency medical service (EMS) call with equal ease.
These units combine a traditional Type 1 pumper with an EMS ambulance type compartment in a marriage of firefighting and advanced life support capabilities.
Lisa Barwick, director of product management for cab and chassis at Pierce Manufacturing, says there has been a renewed interest in certain parts of the country in running combination vehicles such as a pumper transport. “We call ours a Patient Transport model and have seen a lot of activity with departments wanting to do more with less and specifying multiple purpose vehicles,” Barwick says.
Barwick says that patient stabilization and patient transport pumpers rose to popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s but then declined in favor as fire departments turned to vehicles specified for single purposes. Most recently, Pierce has built pumper transport units for the Broward (FL) Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and five fire departments in Utah.
Pierce has built its patient-transport pumpers on both Arrow XT and Velocity chassis, Barwick notes. “Departments tend to go for the two-door cab models and put the patient area behind that with access doors on both sides, although that’s at the customer’s discretion,” she says. “Usually there’s a double door for the gurney lift on the curb side and a single door on the road side for easy access without having to go around a gurney.”
Eric Froerer, chief of the Syracuse (UT) Fire Department, staffs a Pierce transport pumper, two Type 1 Horton ambulances, a Type 6 wildland engine, a Fouts Brothers water tender (tanker), and a Pierce 75-foot quint aerial ladder out of a single station with nine full-time and 17 part-time paid firefighters. The pumper transport carries a 1,500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pump, a 500-gallon water tank, 20 gallons of foam, and a fully outfitted patient box that includes a hydraulic lift to assist firefighters in getting a patient into the box.
“We run about 800 calls a year and 80 percent of them are medical calls,” Froerer says. “The Pierce transport pumper, which serves as our second-out ambulance, is a better way of providing service and still keeping the crew available while they’re out on a transport run.”
Froerer notes that the Pierce pumper transport is first due on most structure fires, except for commercial fire incidents, when the Pierce quint runs first. “I was skeptical at first, but the pumper transport has been a success,” Froerer says. “It has proven to be effective in keeping us in service and allowing us to handle our own calls.”
Chad Brown, vice president of sales and marketing for Braun Industries, says his company builds the Patriot, a patient-transport vehicle on a custom chassis like the Spartan Furion or MetroStar. Typical wheelbase for a Patriot on a MetroStar chassis is 185 inches, with an overall length of 374 inches, overall width of 98 inches, and overall height of 118½ inches. The patient module length is 170 inches, and its headroom is 73 inches.
(1) Pierce Manufacturing built this pumper transport for the Broward
Brown says that Braun recently built four custom Patriot models on MetroStar chassis for Volusia County (FL) Fire Services. “The units have Waterous compressed air foam systems (CAFS), 300 gallons of water, and 30 gallons of foam,” Brown says. “Inside the ambulance module, there are all-aluminum interior cabinets with Meganite countertops and rounded edge corners, VitalMax lighting for shadowless light to aid in patient care, and an EZ Glide sliding side entry door for enhanced crew safety.”
Steve Plummer, deputy chief of Volusia County Fire Services, says his agency covers nearly 1,000 square miles of the county with paid firefighters operating a fleet of 127 vehicles out of 21 stations. He notes, “The initial brainstorm for the patient transport was a thought scribbled on a napkin. We were going to build one as a prototype, but the idea gained traction and we built four at the same time.”
Plummer says the department sought out apparatus manufacturers to build the pumper transport units but found that “many fire apparatus makers didn’t want to get involved in ambulance components and many ambulance manufacturers didn’t want to get involved with fire components.” Then he found Braun, which had built a Patriot concept vehicle.
“Our models are on the Spartan MetroStar chassis and cab, with a Waterous 500-gpm pump in a 48-inch- wide pump module,” Plummer says. “They each have a 300-gallon water tank, a 30-gallon foam cell for CAFS, and the back section is an ALS ambulance. The wheelbase is 173 inches and the ambulance box is 156 inches long with 73 inches of headroom. It’s pretty spacious inside.”
Plummer says that when he builds another patient-transport vehicle, he will go to a four-door cab instead of the two-door cabs on his current units. “I would make that cab a three-passenger compartment and use the fourth seat area for equipment storage,” he says.
Plummer notes that running a pumper transport means having a different mindset about its priorities. “Its primary mission is EMS rescue,” Plummer says. “The priority is that it is a transport-capable unit with suppression capability. It won’t replace a front-line engine for a structure fire but could be a component of that alarm assignment.”
(2) The Syracuse (UT) Fire Department turned to Pierce
Not Necessarily a Pumper
West County EMS and Fire Protection District in Manchester, Missouri, purchased a Braun Patriot pumper transport, but instead of having it built out as a pumper, fitted it out as an air unit, says Jeff Sadtler, assistant chief. “We were considering buying a traditional ambulance, but when we saw the Braun Patriot demo unit, we decided to have it converted to an air unit,” he says. “It serves primarily as a transport unit, but since we do automatic mutual aid, it travels around pretty frequently.”
West County covers 22 square miles out of three stations with 57 firefighters and medical personnel. Each station has a Braun ambulance, while one has a Pierce heavy rescue and the other two have Pierce quint aerials.
Barwick points out that the patient-transport pumper Pierce built for Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue was on a Velocity chassis with a 273-inch wheelbase, a 1,500-gpm single stage Hale pump, a 500-gallon water tank, and a Husky foam system. Broward Fire Rescue ultimately purchased two identical rigs, she says, both powered by 450-hp Detroit DD13 engines and Allison 4000 EVS automatic transmissions.
Broward’s Department of Fire Rescue has 700 paid fire suppression and administrative personnel operating out of five battalions in 22 locations throughout Broward County. Its apparatus includes 17 pumpers, seven aerials, one industrial fire truck, three ARFF units, a brush truck, a chemical fire suppression truck, a foam tanker, a helicopter, and 23 advanced life support ambulances.
(3) Volusia County (FL) Fire Services has four pumper-
Pierce also built patient-transport pumpers for the Ogden City (UT) Fire Department, the West Jordan (UT) Fire Department, the Lone Peak (UT) Fire Department, and the West Valley City (UT) Fire Department.
John Evans, chief of West Valley City, says his department purchased two Pierce patient-transport pumpers in 2005 and found them to be so successful that the department purchased a third one in 2012. “The new pumper transport is on an Arrow XT chassis, has a 1,750-gpm Waterous pump, a 500-gallon water tank, a 20-gallon foam tank, Husky foam system, three crosslays, and 1,000 feet of five-inch large-diameter hose,” Evans says. “It has everything a Class A pumper has on it along with all the medical gear needed for advanced life support transport in the patient area.”
Evans notes that the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) are not located in jump seats in the cab but are carried in compartments on the outside of the vehicle. “Firefighters back up to the compartment and slip the SCBA on,” he says. Evans adds that the patient-transport pumpers don’t carry any extrication equipment because the department’s truck companies are set up to handle all extrications.
West Valley City is the second largest city in Utah, with a population of 130,000, bordering on Salt Lake City. The department protects 38 square miles with 102 paid firefighters out of five stations. Apparatus include three patient-transport pumpers (one sits in reserve), one Pierce traditional pumper, a Pierce 100-foot quint aerial platform, a Pierce 75-foot quint aerial ladder, four Frazier ambulances (including a bariatric rig), one hazmat unit, and a technical rescue unit.
(4) The Volusia County Fire Services pumper transports use
“Using a patient-transport pumper probably isn’t for everybody, but it works for our department where we run both traditional ambulances and the patient transports,” Evans points out. “We feel it’s the best way to run calls and keep our crews together, and we’ve not had any issues with that system.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.