By Mike Ciampo
Preakness Volunteer Fire Company 4 is located in Wayne Township, Passaic County, New Jersey. Not only is it a bedroom community and commuters’ paradise, it also boasts a large area of retail shopping malls and highways cutting through the town. Fire Company 4 was established in 1924 after a devastating blaze destroyed a barn and all of its livestock. After this incident, twelve neighboring farmers gathered and conducted an organizational meeting of the Preakness Volunteer Fire Company No 4. Although the population of this once rural area of Wayne has escalated from fewer 5,000 to more than 70,000, and fire calls have gone from 30 per year to more than 900, the fire company has progressed with the times and continues to provide the community with fire and rescue protection. One just has to look at the company’s fire apparatus to see the pride and dedication that the members put into their equipment to serve the public in its times of need.
Truck 4 is a 2007 Pierce Dash 105-foot quint with TAK 4 suspension, a 2,000-gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank, and prepiped waterway. The fire truck is painted white with a narrow red stripe, wide gray stripe, and narrow red reflective stripe pattern running along the cab and body. The front grille of the apparatus has the American flag painted on it, giving the rig a stunning appearance as it drives down the road. On the front bumper is a Federal Q siren and chrome bell which isn’t seen that often anymore. The unit has roll-up compartment doors running down each side of the apparatus and a rear portable ladder compartment. The apparatus is dedicated to former member and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) Officer Gregg Froehner, who was killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. On each side of the apparatus crew cab windows is a very moving commemorative memorial sticker in his honor. The sticker has both his badges: Preakness Firefighter #53 and PAPD #414 and the city skyline with September 11, 2001 written over it. Particular attention should be made when looking at the skyline, with both of the original Towers symbolizing the number 11. Also to honor duty and our country, a mural is painted on the crew cab doors with a bald eagle with its wings spread open flying over flames with a ladder, ax, and hook in its talons with the American flag in the background.
Just behind the crew cab doors and under the interior rear seats is a transverse compartment that has small compartment doors on each side of the apparatus; these are the only non-roll-up compartments on the rig. This compartment has an eight-foot roll-out tray that is accessible from either side of the apparatus, and it’s Truck 4’s primary forcible entry tool compartment. When the tray is pulled out to either side, firefighters can quickly get their set of irons because each side has a set of Fire Hooks Unlimited Pro-Bar and eight-pound Force Axe married together with a marrying strap. Also on this tray are other Fire Hook Unlimited products: two Multi-Hooks and two three-foot D-handle ceiling/closet hooks. When you pull the tray open from the officer’s side of the apparatus, the Fire Hooks Hydra-Ram sits on the shelf also. Underneath the roll out tray is storage space on both sides of the apparatus. On the right side are a tool bag (with an assortment of hand tools for emergencies) and a large area search rope. With both of these items located here, it makes it very easy for the officer and a firefighter to gather them quickly when they exit the apparatus. On the chauffeur side under the roll-out tray is an old foam container that now carries oil absorbent, fire scene tape, and a road flare carrier.
Speaking with members of this company, the overall feelings were that this compartment serves them and their operational needs very well. The only drawback noted was that firefighters must exercise the utmost caution if the tray has to be open on the road side of the apparatus when vehicular traffic is passing. To assist in that tactic, one firefighter would be the safety while the other removed the tools from the compartment. Since most of the tools can be easily reached and removed with the tray only open a few feet, the apparatus should still maintain a proper distance from a parked car or other obstruction to get the clearance to open the roll-out tray fully or retrieve one of the longer hooks. Transverse compartments are being seen on many apparatus across the country, and units such as Preakness Fire Company 4 have made theirs benefit them and their firefighting and rescue operations.
MIKE CIAMPO is a 28-year veteran of and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NY. He is the lead instructor of the FDIC Truck Co. Essentials class. He wrote the ladder chapter and co-authored the Ventilation chapter for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.fireengineering.com. He is also the author of Fire Engineering’s monthly column “On Fire.”