Foam, foam, more foam, and the ability to project it from an elevated position were some of the concerns that the Malaga (NM) Volunteer Fire Department and the Eddy County, New Mexico, fire service director had in mind when spec’ing a new pumper for the fire district that protects many crude oil and natural gas production areas.
Eddy County encompasses 10,000 square miles of mostly rural area with a population of more than 50,000, says Robert Brader, the county’s fire service director and fire marshal. The county has 11 fire districts, 21 stations, and 211 volunteer firefighters and purchases the apparatus staffed by each district’s volunteers. Two municipalities with paid fire departments-Carlsbad and Artesia-as well as two village volunteer fire departments-Loving and Hope-lie within Eddy County boundaries.
Oil Facility Protection
Pecos Davis, chief of the Malaga Volunteer Fire Department, says his district covers crude oil production areas that include “tank batteries” on the grounds-typically four crude oil tanks and two water tanks, each about 15 feet high and 20 feet in diameter, holding approximately 21,000 gallons each. “We get a lot of lightning strikes on the tank batteries,” Davis says. “Lightning normally strikes the fiberglass water tanks first and blows the tops off of them, causing an immediate explosion because there’s a small amount of crude oil on the top of the water tanks, and natural gas is trapped in there. That explosion can ignite the other tanks in the battery.”
|1 The Malaga (NM) Volunteer Fire Department in Eddy County, New Mexico, went to Pierce Manufacturing for its new pumper, a Pierce Arrow XT with a 50-foot Snozzle High-Reach Extendable Turret (HRET). (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)|
Davis points out that sometimes the tanks burn to the ground before the fire department can get to the scene, spreading water and oil on the ground and causing oil leaks that catch the crude oil tanks on fire. “The crude oil tanks can get so hot that they self-ignite,” he adds. “There’s also the risk of fire at the wells themselves and with other equipment that handles flammable gas at the wells.”
Faced with a big response area and sometimes a 40-mile round trip for shuttling water, Eddy County and the Malaga Volunteer Fire Department wanted a pumper that could carry a lot of foam, have a large pump and water tank, and have an elevated master stream appliance. They chose to have Pierce Manufacturing Inc. build a pumper on a Pierce Arrow XT chassis and four-door cab with seating for four firefighters, a Waterous CSU 1,500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pump, a 1,250-gallon polypropylene water tank, a 200-gallon Class B foam cell, a Husky 12 single-agent foam system, and a 50-foot Snozzle High-Reach Extendable Turret (HRET).
|2 The Pierce Snozzle pumper built for the Malaga (NM) Volunteer Fire Department has a Waterous CSU 1,500-gpm pump, a 1,250-gallon polypropylene water tank, a 200-gallon Class B foam cell, and a Husky 12 single-agent foam system. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)|
Mark Smith, senior sales manager for Pierce Manufacturing, says the Eddy County Snozzle carries a 1,250-gpm monitor and nozzle at the top of the waterway. “It’s like a big deck gun 50 feet in the air that can rotate 360 degrees,” Smith says. “The truck is easy to set up because one switch extends two criss-cross outriggers in the center of the truck, and then the driver uses a remote control joystick to operate the Snozzle. He can work from up to 400 feet away from the vehicle to get a better view of where the water and foam mix is striking.”
John Kovach Jr., sales representative for Siddons-Martin Emergency Group, which sold the vehicle to Eddy County, says the Malaga Volunteer Fire Department’s vehicles have to negotiate unpaved desert roads that “are beat up by 18-wheelers, with pulverized dust and ruts everywhere. Their rigs are always covered with dust and dirt after desert calls, so they didn’t want to subject an aerial ladder to that kind of environment, which made the Snozzle the right answer for them.”
|3 The Snozzle’s monitor and nozzle at the top of the waterway can rotate through 360 degrees and are controlled by a wireless remote control joystick. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)|
Kovach says the Malaga Snozzle pumper is a large vehicle, with a 251½-inch wheelbase, a 62,800-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and TAK-4 independent front suspension. The pumper is powered by a Cummins ISX-12 500-hp diesel engine and an Allison 4000 EVS six-speed automatic transmission.
Davis points out that the TAK-4 independent front suspension has helped the department get the truck through some dicey situations. “The truck runs a lot off of paved roads, usually on dirt or gravel roads,” he says. “When it rains in the desert, there’s no drainage, so water runs to the low spots and you can get pools in the roads that might be 700 to 800 yards long. But, you can’t see what’s below the water and sometimes we’ve had water up to the bottom of the truck’s bumper but have always made it through.”
The Snozzle pumper is set up with four foam-capable 1¾-inch hoselines: two crosslays and two preconnects at the rear of the vehicle. It also has a foam-capable 2½-inch discharge at the rear and an oversized hosebed that carries 1,000 feet of five-inch large-diameter hose (LDH) and 800 feet of 2½-inch hose.
|4 The Pierce Snozzle working a tank fire at a crude oil production facility. [Photo courtesy of the Malaga (NM) Volunteer Fire Department.]|
Brader says that Eddy County uses a fleet of 2,000- and 3,000-gallon tankers in various county fire districts to shuttle water to fires where needed. “In the 11 fire districts, we have more than 20 tankers and [more than] 20 engines,” he says. “And, each district has either a medium or heavy rescue truck. The Malaga Snozzle responds several times a month to major fires, and one weekend we had 15 separate fires for it alone. The total gallonage of foam concentration we used that week cost $30,000, which was reimbursed by the oil companies.”
|5 Lightning is usually the cause of tank fires at crude oil production facilities in the Malaga Volunteer Fire District’s coverage area in Eddy County, New Mexico, such as this fire being worked by Malaga’s Pierce Snozzle pumper. (Photo courtesy of Malaga Volunteer Fire District.)|
Davis notes that the pumper is a collaboration on the part of the manufacturer, dealer, county, and fire department. “A lot of thought went into that truck,” he says. “We ended up keeping it plain and simple, without a lot of bells and whistles, because of the difficult environment it has to work in.”
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.
Malaga Volunteer Fire Department, Eddy County, New Mexico
Pierce Manufacturing Arrow XT pumper with Snozzle HRET
- Pierce Arrow XT chassis and four-door cab with seating for four firefighters
- TAK-4 independent front suspension
- Tandem rear axles with Wabco ABS brake system
- Command Zone advanced electronics
- Snozzle 50-foot High-Reach Extendable Turret (HRET)
- 12-foot, four-inch overall height (to top of stowed HRET)
- 36-foot, 5½-inch overall length
- 251½-inch wheelbase
- 62,800-pound GVWR
- 22,500-pound front axle
- 40,000-pound rear axle
- Cummins ISX-12 500-hp diesel engine
- Allison 4000 EVS six-speed automatic transmission
- Waterous CSU 1,500-gpm pump
- 1,250-gallon polypropylene water tank
- 200-gallon foam cell
- Husky 12 single-agent foam system
- 1,000 feet of five-inch LDH
- 800 feet of 21⁄2-inch hose
- Four 1¾-inch foam-capable hoselines: two crosslays, two rear preconnects
- One 2½-inch foam-capable discharge at rear
- Two Whelen M9LZC LED side scene lights
- Two Whelen M6ZC LED rear scene lights
- Two Golight 2020 wireless remote controlled spotlights on pedestals