In the First State of Delaware, there are only three counties.
The northernmost is New Castle County, which encompasses an estimated 494 square miles and is bordered by the Delaware River, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The county is home to more than 500,000 residents and is served by 21 volunteer fire departments and the only all-career department in the state—the Wilmington (DE) Fire Department. Each fire department is its own individual entity and corporation. The units are all dispatched by the New Castle County 911 Center, and they all operate on shared and common radio channels. It is a very busy county, answering well over 100,000 calls for fire and emergency medical service. With the number of people who live in the county and those who transit through it on major interstates, the potential for a major incident is a daily threat.
|1 Engine 13 has a rear hosebed height of 64 inches. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted.)|
New Castle County has been well known for many years for its unique rigs that vary in size, type, and color. Each corporation has its own operational needs, tank requirements, hose loads, and aerial necessities based on its response area. As the county has grown over the past decade and the population has increased, the needs and response requirements have slowly started to mesh together for all the departments. This increase in density and population and the ever-growing call volume has resulted in an interesting thing happening with apparatus purchases.
In the past couple of years, a number of departments’ apparatus reached the end of their life expectancy. This started a round of purchasing for engine companies across the county. I like to keep an eye on New Castle County and have listened to many of its working incidents via the Internet. I’m also fortunate to have a number of friends in New Castle County departments. In communicating with them, I’ve noticed an interesting trend for apparatus purchases in the county. These engine purchase patterns involve many similar units with the same operational options. In my terms, they were buying engines to do engine work.
|2 A short 181.50-inch wheelbase makes this unit much more maneuverable in its response area.|
In the past, some departments were buying crew carriers that might have some hose and some water on them or a multipurpose unit with no clear identity. Buying a standard engine with a lot of seats, high hosebeds, crosslays out of reach, tons of compartment space, and attention focused on riding in comfort rather than operations has come to an end in the region. Thoughtful planning and rigs designed to lay supply lines, run attack lines, and support the operation of getting water on the fire are in full force in New Castle County.
This change was reinforced by a number of the departments working collaboratively on a number of areas such as joint training classes, offering multicompany drills on acquired structures, and a productive chiefs council. The foundation was set for an understanding of operational fireground strategies and how companies were to operate on automatic aid structure assignments. This push laid the groundwork for the tactics and fireground skills needed on incidents. Departments then started writing specifications for their new engines to match the strategies and skills requirements.
|3 The Claymont (DE) Fire Company extensively uses racks and designed a storage area under the ladders for easy deployment.|
Claymont (DE) Fire Company
The first units to be built with some of these new options in mind were in Claymont, Delaware. The units were part of a replacement plan that was going to see the department shift from a single-role rescue company to a hybrid rescue-engine concept. Claymont also wanted to replace another one of the first-out engines with many of the features it saw as necessary for good engine company work. The two units were designed and purchased together from a single manufacturer. The fire company knew it wanted low hosebeds—an ever-growing, popular option with many departments. The first-out engine carries 500 gallons of water, which is a pretty standard tank size when dealing with the low hosebed option.
Claymont’s engine has a hosebed height from the ground of approximately 64 inches to the bottom of the bed. It can carry 1,200 feet of four-inch supply line, 600 feet of three-inch supply line, and a total of 800 feet of two-inch attack lines in varying lengths; that is a lot of hose in a manageable hosebed. This low option allows for deploying the supply line by using a layout rope and deploying the handlines without having to climb up on the back step for retrieval. This simple ergonomic function can reduce injuries and speed up attack line and supply line deployment. You’ll soon see this is a pretty standard option on all the rigs I’ll be discussing.
|4 Attack line (150 feet) is stored in the front bumper for easy deployment on interstate highway calls to help protect crews from having to pull off the sides of the apparatus.|
The rescue-engine Claymont took delivery of also had a lower hosebed—lower than most rescue-engines that are in service. With the body compartments needed to support the rescue work and the 500-gallon tank, the rescue-engine ended up with a hosebed height of only a little over 69 inches. I hope to review this rescue-engine in more detail in the future, but let’s just stick with the engine for now—Engine 13.
Claymont’s engines have historically had long wheelbases, and keeping this design was a concern for the department because of increased vehicle traffic, apartment projects with smaller streets, and increased street-side parking. A smaller, more nimble fire engine needed to reappear. Claymont accomplished this with a new engine that featured a 181.50-inch wheelbase. With a short tailboard and a front bumper just big enough to house one attack line, Claymont kept great approach and departure angles for the rig. It is nice and short and has the ability to make tight streets and weave in and out of the highly congested roadways.
|5 Engine 13 is one of the only new rigs to have crosslays, an option the fire company chose for its response area and operations.|
One of the other options Claymont selected to increase operational efficiency was rack storage. Rack storage allows easy access to hose, which can be used for a number of firegound tasks, off the side of the rig. This is a great option to store high-rise racks, which most of the companies have chances of running, or bundles of hose for extending a courtyard line/long line. The addition of racks to apparatus will increase your engine companies’ performance, provided the hose is used in the correct fashion and drilled on by the members. The hose length, size, and nozzle configurations all depend on the response area, building configurations, and operations to be completed.
Claymont chose to operate with attack lines off the rear and the front bumper and with crosslays. Having multiple areas to deploy lines offers great options for apparatus positioning. A minimally raised roof also allows for some riding comfort for those in the rear of the apparatus and does not attract a large number of low branches that populate residential and apartment project streets and alleys.
|6 Engine 18, in service with the Good Will Fire Company in New Castle, Delaware, carries 750 gallons of water and features a low hosebed and 169.50-inch wheelbase.|
This unit, along with the other units I’m reviewing in this article, is likely to run Interstates 95 and 295 as both roads transverse the upper part of Delaware. With that as a response consideration, the unit’s visibility from all directions is a safety concern. High visibility chevrons on the rear of the unit are required by the National Fire Protection Association but also encompass a safety consideration for the New Castle County fire service. Being seen and drawing attention to the apparatus to reduce apparatus accidents with civilian vehicles are important to all those involved. Using highly visible emergency lighting and scene lighting is essential for those departments. By using a series of flashing LED lights and traffic light bars, Claymont hopes to grab drivers’ attention and ensure they steer clear of the units parked for barrier protection on I-95. Almost all of the units have exclusively gone with all LED warning lights and 12-volt scene lights to offer the brightest lights available for their scenes without needing a large alternator for the emergency lighting and a large generator to support the scene lighting.
Good Will Fire Company
The next rig in the line of similar purchases is Engine 18, in service with the Good Will Fire Company, Station 18, in New Castle, Delaware. In keeping with the new trend of low hosebeds, the department went this route. But because of the response area, the fire company felt it needed more water, so it increased the tank size to 750 gallons. The tank, coupled with the four-inch rear inlet below the hosebed and along with a single three-inch outlet and two 2.5-inch outlets for attack lines and ground monitor, pushed the hosebed up a little bit. The height of the bottom of the hosebed on Engine 18 is a couple of inches above the Claymont unit’s 64 inches. With a 750-gallon tank and rear inlets and outlets, the low hosebed carries 1,200 feet of four-inch supply line, 800 feet of three-inch supply line, and 800 feet of 1¾-inch attack lines in varying lengths.
|7 Even with 750 gallons of water, Engine 18 still has a low hosebed and is set up to deliver and receive water rapidly.|
Looking to make the unit a compact engine, the department decreased the wheelbase to 169.50 inches. This was accomplished by making the compartment in front of the rear wheels 19.50 inches wide instead of 31.50 inches wide, as specified on Claymont’s Engine 13. The shortened wheelbase creates a tighter turning radius. Along with the unit’s 45-degree cramp angle on the front axle, the rig is quite maneuverable.
Good Will also went with pan doors rather than roll-up doors. One of the options it chose with these doors was to make the pump compartment—or first compartment ahead of the rear wheels on the driver’s side—hinged on the right rather than the left like most of the other doors. This enables the driver to open up the compartment and have quick access to all needed adapters and tools without having to walk around the open compartment door.
|8 Reverse hinging the door makes for easy access to the appliances needed for pump operations.|
With the shortened wheelbase came the issue of ground ladders. The department chose to have attack lines off the rear and two lines off the front bumper. It made this decision based on its area and typical arrival of truck companies. It gives crews the ability to stop short on houses to allow the truck to take the front. Crews can also pull past on garden apartments and commercial structures, thus having access to the longer lines and once again leaving the front open for the truck.
With no real operational need for crosslays, the department made use of that area by specifying a place to store deadloaded additional attack hose for extending lines or replacing burst sections. With a short rig, the ladders can almost come up to the back of the cab. The fire company placed its ladders on the officer side with the tips of the ladders in front of the first deadload hose storage area. This placement does not really impact their attack line deployment since it is just storage. If they had done actual crosslays, they would have been blocked by the ladder. This was a pretty well thought out choice and does not hamper operations.
|9 Good Will chose recessed handrails to clean up the sides of the rig.|
Another interesting thing Good Will did with its ground ladders was to specify a 16-foot roof ladder with the roof hooks on both ends of the ladder. This is a style of roof ladder that I think is really starting to catch on with a number of departments.
Some other interesting options on this engine include the following:
- Recessed handrails for the cab and crew areas.
- A small compartment behind crew cab doors for storage in what normally would be dead space.
- Half doors on all cab doors (also called jersey doors) so crews can open the cab doors when parked next to the jersey walls on the section of I-95 they run.
- Abundance of lighting in the rear of the apparatus to bring attention to the rear when parked at incident scenes.
- Oversized compartments in the wheel wells to store extra self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders and an SCBA for the driver.
- A floating cooler tray with cover mounted in the officer’s side running board at the pump panel for storage of water and other drinks for hydration.
It is a very nice rig and well planned out by the department and its members.
|10 The Christiana (DE) Fire Company’s new Engine 12 is a small, compact engine set up to respond to the suburban challenges in Christiana, Delaware. (Photo by Don Moorehead.)|
Christiana (DE) Fire Company
The last rig to review is from one of the busiest departments in New Castle County: the Christiana (DE) Fire Company. It currently has three stations and covers a good part of the most populated area of the county along with a large section of the interstate road system. Until recently, it ran rescue-engines out of each of its stations. While a great concept, with the increased structural call volume, it decided to work toward a more traditional engine company approach with its new purchase. In looking at what the previous two departments had purchased, the members from Christiana looked to capitalize on all the great options chosen by Good Will and Claymont and work toward a new compact urban attack wagon.
|11 The busy end of this engine houses all the rig’s attack lines for the majority of all the fire company’s structural calls. (Photo by Don Moorehead.)|
Going with the low hosebed option like the others, Christiana identified that its area and responses on the interstate required a 750-gallon tank. With four discharges off the rear, this pushed the bottom of the hosebed to 63 inches, not tall by any standard. Engine 12’s rear hosebed can hold 1,000 feet of four-inch supply line, 800 feet of 2½-inch supply/attack line, and 1,000 feet of 1¾-inch attack line in varying lengths to fit its response area.
This short engine has a wheelbase of 169.50 inches and an overall length of just 29 feet 11¾ inches. With a small compartment ahead of the rear wheels like Good Will’s engine, a short tail step, and a 19-inch bumper extension, it creates a very maneuverable and compact engine. The front bumper attack lines are both 200 feet long and have fog nozzles on the ends.
|12 Maintaining some functionality in case of vehicle accidents, Engine 12 has a small complement of Hurst equipment in the driver’s side rear compartment. (Photo by Don Moorehead.)|
The rear of Engine 12 is a very busy place—especially for the delivery and intake of water. In the rear compartment, there is a four-inch intake for attaching the laid supply line or for receiving water from a hydrant through a 35-foot section of soft sleeve. The attack line assortment off the rear is accomplished with 1¾-inch lines. Looking at the hosebed from left to right, Engine 12 has the following attack lines with all 15/16-inch smooth bore nozzles:
- 200 feet of preconnected 1¾-inch line.
- 300 feet of preconnected 1¾-inch line.
- 800 feet of 2 ½-inch line with a bundle load of 100 feet of 1¾-inch line on top.
- 1,000 feet of four-inch supply line.
- 300 feet of preconnected 1¾-inch line.
- 200 feet of preconnected 1¾-inch line.
|13 A four-inch intake and 35-foot section of soft sleeve attached are in the rear compartment.|
Some of the options and features on this unit include the following:
- A compartment behind the crew cab doors for storage.
- Whelen 12-volt scene lighting on all four sides.
- Short overall height of nine feet six inches.
- Booster reel with 200 feet of one-inch hose.
- All LED warning lights.
- Single crosslay for storage of deadload of hose.
- Low-mounted ground ladders on the officer’s side.
- Custom-mounted Hurst equipment in compartments.
- All floating bins in bumper and side trays.
- Reverse-hinged pump operator’s compartment.
What a great trio of rigs these departments in New Castle County have purchased! And, I’m sure the trend set by these engines is not over. It has been exciting to see how the fire service in New Castle County has grown over the past 13 years. The apparatus purchases truly reflect the response areas as well as tactics that the companies have embraced. I urge you to listen to these departments on an Internet scanner as these volunteer organizations have really stepped up their game.
|14 A short 45-inch pump panel helped shorten the wheelbase to 169.50 inches, allowing a very good turning radius for this unit. (Photo by Don Moorehead.)|
Author’s note: Thanks to the Claymont (DE) Fire Company and Chief Eric “Ceaser” Haley; Firefighter Cody Sooy from the Goodwill Fire Company; and Chief Rich Perillo, Chief Kevin Cowperthwait, and Don Moorehead of the Christiana (DE) Fire Company for assistance with this article.
RICKY RILEY is operations chief for the Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and a member of the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as chief of department. He also served for 20 years with the Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue before his retirement in 2005. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.