Adams, Aerials, Apparatus, Apparatus Purchasing, Apparatus Showcase, Pumpers, Rescues

Apparatus Purchasing: Sell Three, Keep One, and Buy One

Issue 11 and Volume 21.

By Bill Adams

Many fire service publications expound on reducing career staffing in cash-strapped municipal fire departments and the declining number of volunteer firefighters in the suburbs. One result of the declining number of firefighters is the increased use of multipurpose apparatus. The days of traditional engine and ladder companies and single-function support apparatus such as hose wagons, tankers (water tenders), heavy rescues, and squad trucks may be numbered. Reviews of recent deliveries of multipurpose rigs show that most pundits praise the work of the apparatus purchasing committees (APCs), expound on the expertise of the manufacturers, give basic descriptions of the apparatus, and state how everyone is ecstatic with the new delivery.

1 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department’s four primary front-line rigs include a used heavy rescue, a used rear-mount aerial ladder, a pumper, and a pumper-tanker. A new quint and the pumper-tanker will soon be its only two primary pieces. An existing four-door brush truck and a four-door utility vehicle will move up to the front row. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted
1 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department’s four primary front-line rigs include a used heavy rescue, a used rear-mount aerial ladder, a pumper, and a pumper-tanker. A new quint and the pumper-tanker will soon be its only two primary pieces. An existing four-door brush truck and a four-door utility vehicle will move up to the front row. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted.)

The decision making process in determining why a department specifies a particular type of rig is seldom discussed in detail. What is the reasoning? What’s being gained? More importantly, what’s being lost? That information might be more beneficial to APCs than describing a new rig’s color scheme; the number of sirens mounted on the front bumper; and how the apparatus is better than apple pie, sunshine, and fresh air.

A local fire chief said he was selling three rigs, keeping one, and purchasing one new one. I kiddingly called it the 3-1-1 concept. I’m not a proponent of multipurpose apparatus, so learning that this chief was substantially downsizing his fleet and purchasing a single multipurpose rig was the impetus for this article. I challenged his decision making process while expressing my own traditionalist views. He granted an interview. His candid responses are educational.

Manchester (NY) Fire Department

The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department (MFD), located in Ontario County in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, was established in 1912. It covers 25 square miles including the one-square-mile village where more than half of the 3,000 residents reside. It has an Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating of 5-both inside and outside the village. Last year, the department responded to 217 alarms, up from 150 10 years ago. Except for an occasional call to assist an outside ambulance service with a forced entry to a structure, a lift assist, or setting up a landing zone for a helicopter transport, it does not provide emergency medical services (EMS). It does not carry EMS equipment on the apparatus except for what is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) mandated.

2 The department gained “ladder company” experience with this used 100-foot rear-mount aerial and a used 65-foot midship quint that preceded it. It liked the rear-mount concept, single rear axle, and the extra length of the 100-foot device. Purchasing a used aerial device first gives users actual fireground experience in their own district before spending close to a million dollars for a new, “untried” vehicle
2 The department gained “ladder company” experience with this used 100-foot rear-mount aerial and a used 65-foot midship quint that preceded it. It liked the rear-mount concept, single rear axle, and the extra length of the 100-foot device. Purchasing a used aerial device first gives users actual fireground experience in their own district before spending close to a million dollars for a new, “untried” vehicle.

The 30 active volunteers do not include life members who do not participate in any firematics. Chief Harry Bowker says that active firefighters must respond to 15 percent of all alarms and attend 20 hours of mandatory training, which is somewhat deceiving as the department recorded more than 2,000 hours of training hours in 2015. He added that despite membership remaining constant, weekday daytime response may only be four or five people-one half of what it was five years ago. Staffing at night calls runs from the high teens to low 20s. The department gave the often-heard reasoning for these numbers as family obligations, working two jobs or working out of town, and the commitment for training.

Existing primary apparatus include a 1990 1,500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pumper with 1,250-gallon tank, a 1997 1,500-gpm pumper-tanker with 2,500-gallon tank, a used 1971 100-foot rear-mount aerial (without a full complement of ground ladders), and a used 1986 walk-in rescue truck. Two four-door support vehicles include a brush truck and a utility vehicle used for traffic control. The chief and both assistants use their personal vehicles. If one of the chiefs goes en route to a scene, the other two will respond to the fire station. The department emphasizes staffing the apparatus, especially during the day.

Mutual Aid/Mutual Assistance

Twenty-nine fire departments provide protection in Ontario County. One, at a Veteran’s Administration facility, is career staffed; three are combination; and the balance is 100 percent volunteer. The county’s version of a mutual-aid box alarm system (MABAS) provides Manchester with up to a third-alarm response with automatic station coverage.

3 The department gained “ladder company” experience with this used 100-foot rear-mount aerial and a used 65-foot midship quint that preceded it. It liked the rear-mount concept, single rear axle, and the extra length of the 100-foot device. Purchasing a used aerial device first gives users actual fireground experience in their own district before spending close to a million dollars for a new, “untried” vehicle
3 The department gained “ladder company” experience with this used 100-foot rear-mount aerial and a used 65-foot midship quint that preceded it. It liked the rear-mount concept, single rear axle, and the extra length of the 100-foot device. Purchasing a used aerial device first gives users actual fireground experience in their own district before spending close to a million dollars for a new, “untried” vehicle.

On structural alarms, Manchester receives automatic mutual assistance from three other departments for one pumper each. Bowker says that three mutual-aid apparatus are dispatched on each additional alarm. They will be pumpers unless a preplanned specific hazard or target location mandates specialized apparatus such as ladder companies or tankers. Preplanned responses can be modified based on “the situation found” or a unique type of incident.

When discussing the effectiveness of the county plan, Bowker responds, “Staffing in any volunteer department is always a concern-especially in the daytime. Manchester works closely with five departments with ‘station-to-station’ travel distances of one mile, four miles, two at seven miles, and one at eight miles. Actual travel distances vary with the location of the call.” He emphasizes that driving times are as critical as the time it takes mutual-aid departments to staff their apparatus. The county MABAS plan recommends that four firefighters respond on each rig, with the expectation they will do anything that needs to be done. Bowker adds, “What is unpredictable is that you may not get the level of support expected.”

Aerial History

The MFD’s first aerial device, purchased in 1995, was a 1959 quint with a midship-mounted 65-foot aerial on a commercial chassis. It lasted 10 years. The current single-function aerial, a 1971 100-foot rear-mount on a custom chassis, which was purchased in 2005, needed replacement. Bowker says, “Purchasing used aerial devices was a 20-year primer for us. We learned what works, what doesn’t work, and what we wanted in the future. Both used aerials were so underpowered that we ran them last out. In fact, the first aerial, the quint, was so slow we ran it without water in its booster tank. We are looking for dependability with the new rig.”

Planning for a New Rig

The MFD began looking at replacing both the 1990 pumper and the used aerial with a quint. Bowker says, “Our original concept was for a 75-foot aluminum aerial on a single axle. Although the aerial length would be shorter than our existing rig, it met most of the other criteria. The shorter aerial was a major concern. The department was open to all manufacturers who used aluminum ladders.”

Further assessment of current and projected staffing, the actual usage of existing apparatus, and apparatus ages led to considering combining the pumper, used aerial, and used rescue into a single unit-which I call Manchester’s 3-1-1 concept. The department performed a needs analysis in-house based on previous experience and included the expected growth within the response district and the anticipated department makeup. One call was a major catalyst for the 3-1-1 concept. The MFD received a weekday tone-out for a motor vehicle accident with entrapment. The rescue responded with four firefighters. After receiving an update that the vehicle was into a trailer, the chief requested two mutual-aid engines. On arrival, the crew found an automobile buried up to its B post in a double-wide house trailer. Two people were trapped, and the trailer was knocked off its foundation and was on fire. There were two fatalities. Bowker says, “The first rig on scene was the rescue truck with two fire extinguishers. I said, ‘That wasn’t going to happen again.’ ”

4 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department provided these prints depicting the rescue-quint it has ordered. [Schematics courtesy of the Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department.]
4 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department provided these prints depicting the rescue-quint it has ordered. [Schematics courtesy of the Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department.]

He continues, “The basic question addressed internally was if only four people show up, what rig do they take? In designing the new quint, the priority was to maximize the efficiency of the responding staffing to handle or get a head start in mitigating a situation until help arrives-either from other in-house apparatus or an automatic mutual assistance response.”

The 3-1-1 plan was the general consensus among all department members, and the time from concept to placing an order was about five years. The village understood the apparatus replacement situation and knew something had to be done.

Bowker continues, “The department was up front with the village, keeping it updated step by step. We justified every reason, and there were no problems with the village. They thought it was a good plan.” The used aerial, used rescue, and 1990 pumper would be sold. The pumper-tanker would be kept, and a new quint would be purchased. The two small support vehicles were not included in the replacement equation. He adds that the department contacted the local ISO office to ensure that its 3-1-1 plan did not adversely affect its rating. It did not.

5 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department provided these prints depicting the rescue-quint it has ordered. [Schematics courtesy of the Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department.]
5 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department provided these prints depicting the rescue-quint it has ordered. [Schematics courtesy of the Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department.]

Pierce Manufacturing introduced a steel 107-foot aerial on a single axle at FDIC International 2015, which the department felt would best meet its needs-especially when members found out it would be available without a standard size pump house. The department informed the village about the change to the 107-foot steel aerial and it concurred. Bowker states, “A key feature in specifying the rig we did was the aerial’s extra 32 feet of horizontal reach-one of the drawbacks of a 75-foot aerial device.” When questioned about the proprietary nature of only one manufacturer offering such a product, the chief says, “The department currently has 1990 and 1997 rigs built by the same manufacturer with no problems. There is an established rapport with the manufacturer’s local dealer, which is also our service provider.”

I would like to point out that the local dealer has represented the same manufacturer for 40 years, and both have proven and respected reputations in the area. Manchester did meet with one other OEM after the decision to go with the steel aerial.

The dealer mentioned the possibility of purchasing off of a national cooperative sales contract, which the department investigated with the village’s consent. The quint was priced off the contract at $901,291 and was subsequently ordered. Interestingly, the village secured financing for a 12-year lease through a third party. Bowker states that the village saved more than $44,000 with a $125,000 down payment and about a $75,000 yearly payment.

My Initial Challenge

I asked Bowker several biased questions about the decision to go with a multipurpose vehicle and, in particular, a quint to run first due on everything. I paraphrased his candid responses.

How can you do away with three rigs with a seating capacity of 19 and replace them with one rig that only seats six? “We’ll have seating for twelve on the two primary rigs and eight additional on the two support vehicles.”

Why get rid of the walk-in rescue with seating in the back? “Seldom do we have people ride in the back. We bought it used in 2005, and our decision is based on 10 years of experience with it. It has a cascade system, which we don’t need, as the county provides one. Everything we need from it will be on or will fit on the new rig and the pumper-tanker.”

6 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department provided these prints depicting the rescue-quint it has ordered. [Schematics courtesy of the Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department.]
6 The Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department provided these prints depicting the rescue-quint it has ordered. [Schematics courtesy of the Village of Manchester (NY) Fire Department.]

How can you get by with losing so much compartment space on two rigs? “By rearranging equipment locations. An onboard foam system and integral foam and booster tank free up compartment space. Two compartments on the pumper that carried self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and spare bottles are freed up by having more SCBA seats on the quint with spare bottles stored in the wheel wells. The quint’s generator will be mounted on top of the body and not in a compartment. Compartment-mounted hydraulic rescue tool (HRT) reels and tools from the rescue will be mounted on the front bumper. An electric cord reel is also mounted on the front bumper.”

The existing pumper and pumper-tanker have prepiped master stream appliances. Regarding why there wasn’t a prepiped 1,000-gpm master stream on the new rig, Bowker points to the prepiped ladder pipe on the blueprint and says, “There’s my prepiped 1,000-gpm master stream.”

Specifics

It appeared Manchester and Bowker had done quite a bit of homework, so I asked some direct questions in comparing the existing pumper being sold and the quint on order. Just how effective will the quint be as first due? How is it going to be better than what you have now? What did you gain on the fireground with this new quint being first due? Briefly paraphrasing Bowker’s positive comments:

  • An elevated prepiped master stream.
  • Two preconnected HRT reels.
  • HRT tools preconnected to the reels.
  • The pumper has two manual electric cord reels in a compartment; the quint will have two preconnected electric rewind cord reels-one on the bumper and one mounted at the top of a side equipment compartment.
  • All three saws (cutoff, chainsaw, and Cutters Edge) are consolidated on one rig.
  • The pumper’s smoke ejector and aerial’s positive-pressure ventilation fan will be carried on the quint.
  • The pumper carries a collapsible ladder and a roof and extension ladder, which have to be pulled straight out of an enclosed compartment up in the hosebed-a two- to three-person task. The quint will have two 24-foot extension ladders and two 16-foot roof ladders accessible from ground level by one person. Another 16-foot roof ladder will be carried on the base section of the aerial and a Little Giant ladder on top of the body.
  • The pumper has two SCBA seats in the cab. The quint will have five.
  • The two 1¾-inch crosslays on the pumper and pumper-tanker are not accessible from ground level. The quint will have two low-mounted speedlays in slide-out trays. Spare preloaded trays will be kept at the fire station for quick reloads.
  • The same applies to the 2½-inch crosslay. Bowker notes that there still remains an in-house discussion on whether to equip the 2½-inch preconnected speedlay with a nozzle or a portable ground monitor in an extra wide tray.
  • There will be the capacity to carry an additional 500 feet of 2½- or three-inch hose not available on the pumper.
  • The pumper and pumper-tanker each have a rear 1¾-inch discharge dedicated as a foam line with a 95-gpm 0.25- to six-percent eductor. The quint’s onboard foam system will have the same range and is rated at 200 gpm at six percent, 400 gpm at three percent, and 1,200 gpm at one percent. Foam is piped to the two 1¾-inch and the single 2½-inch speedlays. The pumper and pumper-tanker’s eductors and foam pails were stored in compartments-not the case with the quint.
  • The quint will have more 12-volt scene lights than the pumper, and all are LED.
  • The department will carry the same amount of portable flood lighting, the same HRT equipment, the same amount of cribbing, and the same number of SCBAs and spare cylinders.
  • The quint will carry the same 1,000 feet of five-inch supply hose and same number of preconnected attack lines.
  • The pumper has a 1,250-gallon booster tank. Regarding whether he is comfortable with his first-due rig only having 500 gallons of water, Bowker says, “We recognize the limitations of less tank water. However, our first-due rig always lays in and the onboard foam system at one percent or less will make more effective use of our tank water. And, our unhydranted area is extremely small.”

Bowker states that the MFD physically measured each piece of equipment going on the two primary rigs (the existing pumper-tanker and the new quint). Personnel determined what equipment they need, what they don’t need, and an estimate of the equipment they may be purchasing in the future. Bowker concludes, “Operationally, we expect that the new quint will do everything we have done in the past. It will do more than what we do now and is anticipated to do everything we want to do in the future.” He adds, “Considering the ages of existing apparatus and the current and projected staffing situation, the purchase of the rescue-quint-as we designed it-is the best solution with the least financial impact for the fire department and the Village of Manchester.”

He’s calling the new rig on order a rescue-quint. He just might have it lettered that way. After it is delivered and has been in service for a while, I will do a full review of it and its overall fireground effectiveness.

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.