Apparatus, Features, Wildland Urban Interface

Fire Department Chooses Spencer Manufacturing for Small, Compact Wildland Truck


By Alan M. Petrillo

The Grant Township (MI) Fire Department, part of the Mason County Rural Fire Authority, provides fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to 49 square miles of land that includes agricultural uses, a federal wilderness area, a state park, and shoreline along Lake Michigan. One of the big concerns the department had was replacing a 1987 Ford F-250 brush truck with a new wildland vehicle that could easily negotiate the sandy dunes of the federally-designated Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area.

Ron Melchert II, chief of the department, says he and his firefighters came up with a wildland truck design, and Melchert approached Grant Spencer, president of Spencer Manufacturing, “because I have known Grant for years, and we appreciate the kinds of vehicles his company builds,” Melchert says. “We sat with Grant and his engineers to talk about the design and what we needed the wildland truck to do.”

Spencer says that one of the concerns Melchert had was to keep the water tank on the vehicle low to drop the vehicle’s center of gravity, yet have a high clearance on the rig so it could negotiate sand dunes and other difficult-to-reach places. “We had to work hard to design a 500-gallon low-profile tank 16 inches high that runs the width and length of the truck’s body,” Spencer says, “which helps keep the truck stable and also allows for more compartment space.”

The Grant Township wildland truck is built on a 2014 Ford F-550 Super Duty 4×4 chassis with a 140-inch wheelbase, 19,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and a six-inch lift to accommodate a set of 36-inch IROC Super Single sand and mud tires. Spencer also angled the two rear corners of the truck’s body 45 degrees to allow for a greater angle of departure when the rig was used off-road.

Spencer says the body is polypropylene with an aluminum subframe, has two lower compartments, and a large transverse compartment holding a slide-out tray behind the dual booster reels. The wildland truck carries a CET 500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) portable pump, has a low pump operator station, a 15-gallon foam tank integrated in the water tank, a Trident Emergency Products FOAMATE foam system, two booster reels with Akron Brass nozzles, and an Elkhart Brass Sidewinder front bumper monitor with joystick controls inside the cab. “With the Sidewinder, they can pump 15 gpm for 30 minutes using pump and roll,” he notes.

Discharges on the wildland rig include the two one-inch booster reels, a 2½-inch discharge, one 1¾-inch preconnect with 150 feet of hose, 500 feet of 1-inch forestry handline, and a ¾-inch garden hose connection. The vehicle has Whelen V series LED warning lights, Whelen Pioneer Plus and Micro Pioneer LED scene lighting, and a Warn 9,000-pound portable winch that can be connected to winch receivers at the front and rear. Cost of the vehicle, which was delivered to the department in Spring 2014, was $122,000.

“All the plumbing on the truck is stainless steel,” Spencer points out, “and there’s a Fireman’s Friend valve at the rear that allows for fast refilling of the water tank.”

Other apparatus at the Grant Township (MI) Fire Department include a 2001 CSI 1,000-gallon tanker, a 1999 Ferrara pumper with a 1,250-gpm pump and 1,000-gallon water tank, a 2010 Ford F-550 rescue set up for vehicle extrication with Holmatro hydraulic rescue tools, a 1988 Ford F-350 4×4 ambulance, and a 2011 Kubota 1100 tracked vehicle hauled by the wildland rig in an 18-foot enclosed trailer.

“Our new wildland truck handles excellent,” says Melchert. “The center of gravity is low even though the vehicle has that 6-inch lift. It has performed well off road, in the dunes, and on the many gravel roads we have around here.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist 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.