By Bill Adams
From a large city’s purchasing specification found online: “It is the intent of these specifications to cover the furnishing and delivery to the Purchaser of a complete new, current model year, top of the line extreme duty custom cab model, NFPA 1901 compliant walk-through Heavy Rescue fire apparatus equipped as hereinafter specified.”
The definition of and compliance to “top of the line” and “extreme duty” can be argued and debated because both terms are ambiguous and subject to individual interpretation. Likewise, requiring bidders to provide a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)-compliant walk-through heavy rescue fire apparatus can be problematic. In this article, heavy rescue fire apparatus is synonymous with rescue truck and heavy rescue.
|1 KME delivered Squad 4 to the Atlanta (GA) Fire Department. It features a two-door custom cab and traditional style hinged doors on the eight body and cab equipment compartments on this side. (Photo courtesy of KME.)|
Supposedly, three bidders submitted proposals to supply the aforementioned NFPA-compliant heavy rescue – something that in writing does not exist, nor is it defined. NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus (2016 ed.), does not recognize a heavy rescue fire apparatus. Nor does it recognize a medium- or light-duty rescue apparatus. Additionally, it doesn’t have criteria for walk-in, walk-through, or walk-around rescues. But, I’m sure all the bidders checked “yes” in the “bidder complies” column.
Yes, my observations appear hypercritical; however, the scenario shows bidders are willing to propose building a rig to nonexisting criteria and will post a financial surety to guarantee doing so. That’s their decision. What should be of concern is the dangerous precedent that is being established. Bidders are proposing what they think a customer wants regardless of what the purchaser’s written specification says. That is troubling. It could undermine the intent and purpose of competitive bidding. More later.
|2 Pierce delivered this two-door custom chassis rig to the Los Angeles (CA) Fire Department, lettered as “Urban Search & Rescue 88.” It features both hinged and roll-up compartment doors. (Photos 2 and 3 courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)|
What is a Heavy Rescue?
Many heavy rescue companies morphed from open squad cars to bread-van-type delivery vehicles to pickup-sized rigs with utility bodies (e.g., Squad 51 on the television show “Emergency!”). Increasing in size, most were mounted on medium-duty commercial cabs and chassis. Today’s heavy rescues include custom chassis with tandem axles and tractor-drawn behemoths. Even big cities started small. The Fire Department of New York’s Rescue Company No. 1 went into service on March 8, 1915, with a 1914 Cadillac touring car. Boston’s Rescue No. 1 started in 1917 with a 1911 American LaFrance hose wagon. Today, both these companies run large custom-chassis apparatus with tandem rear axles. A review of numerous apparatus manufacturers’ Web sites and rescue truck brochures did not yield a definition of a heavy rescue or any specific indication of a rescue complying with any provision of NFPA 1901. Note: I am NOT in favor of the NFPA dictating what constitutes a heavy rescue. I asked several apparatus manufacturers if they have a written definition for a heavy rescue truck.
Doug Kelley, product manager at KME, answers, “Unfortunately, there is no industry definition for a heavy rescue truck. KME does not specifically have any models called a “heavy rescue.” Informally, a heavy rescue would have an 18-foot or larger body, almost always on a KME custom chassis, often with a tandem axle. It would usually have a high-capacity generator (15 kW or larger) and often a cascade system. But, there’s no set definition that we put in front of a customer. It’s mostly up to them to call it what they want.”
|3 Rescue 9, of the Kansas City (MO) Fire Department, operates this large tandem-axled walk-around rescue from Pierce featuring a crew cab.|
Bill Proft, rescue program director, Pierce Manufacturing, says, “In my opinion, trying to adequately define what a heavy-duty rescue vehicle is would be impossible and would not serve anyone well. Due to the varied purposes and capabilities, there is no definition that suits a rescue vehicle. NFPA 1901 identifies some very basic requirements within the ‘Special Service Fire Apparatus’ chapter and goes so far as to identify suggested lists of equipment for ‘rescue operations’ and ‘hazardous materials containment operations’ in the appendix but goes no further. Proposing a definition would likely generate a lot of discussion and disagreement.
“Every heavy-duty rescue customer has different needs, and the department’s committee has to come to a consensus on what’s right for them. I recommend that they identify the top five vehicle capabilities most important to them – and the equipment they need to have on the truck – and then build the vehicle’s specs around those requirements. The customer should spend time learning what’s out there. For example, if they are going to build a dive rescue, they might want to contact other departments that have one and talk to their team. Moreover, Pierce dealers are experts in helping departments prioritize and sort out these sorts of issues and are available to share their knowledge and insight.”
|4 Ferrara delivered this rig, lettered “Heavy Rescue,” to the San Francisco (CA) Fire Department. It features a short wheelbase with a single rear axle and a raised-roof four-door custom cab that is level with the rescue body. (Photos 4-5 courtesy of Ferrara Fire Apparatus.)|
“We generally refer to a heavy rescue as anything on a medium-duty chassis or larger,” says Wayde Kirvida, factory sales for CustomFIRE, “basically a greater than 35,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).”
Shane Krueger, national sales manager for Marion Body Works’ Fire & Emergency Products, replies, “Marion Body Works defines a ‘heavy rescue’ as any vehicle with a 17-foot body length or greater carrying a 4,000-pound equipment allowance as defined under Special Service Fire Apparatus.”
Mike Mildner, rescue sales specialist for E-ONE, describes a heavy rescue as, “A highly specialized vehicle used within a fire department or other organization for technical rescue using a wide array of the latest tools and technology coupled with highly trained operators for a mission to save lives and property under extraordinary circumstances. The duty cycle of a heavy rescue truck could include, but is not limited to, incident command, hazmat, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), urban search and rescue (USAR), wet rescue, light and air, dive, rehab, or any combination of these duties or others as required by the service area where the rescue will be used.”
|5 Ferrara delivered this large tandem-axled rig to the Clifford Township (PA) Volunteer Fire Company. It also is lettered “Heavy Rescue.”|
Frank Riccobono, of Firehouse Apparatus, Inc., a 4 Guys Fire Apparatus dealership in Western New York, says, “4 Guys defines rescue trucks as walk-in or nonwalk-in. Our stainless steel bodies are built the same way whether they go on an F-550 or a Spartan tandem axle chassis.”
“Rescue 1 does not have a definition that describes a heavy rescue,” says Mike Marquis, vice president of sales, Rescue 1. “I would venture to say the definition of heavy rescue is in the eyes of the beholder. States, government agencies, and the NFPA all have established lists of equipment that is required be carried aboard the apparatus to be considered a heavy rescue unit. If the fire department is located in or near a heavily populated town or city, these established equipment lists are very important. If the fire department is located in a rural location where there are little more than miles of farmlands, wooded acreage, or marshlands, these lists may be inconsequential. Unless built on a light-duty chassis or a used recycled ambulance, these rural fire departments refer to and consider their rescues to be heavy rescues too.”
|6 Another Pennsylvania volunteer company, Fame #3 in West Chester, took delivery of a CustomFIRE tandem-axled walk-in heavy rescue. Two-door custom cabs with storage behind the seats that is accessible from both sides appear to be gaining favor. (Photos 6-9 courtesy of CustomFIRE.)|
Mike Watts, national sales manager for Toyne, relates, “Heavy rescue generally denotes a body built on a tandem axle chassis due to the size of the body – usually over 18 feet – and the volume and weight of the equipment to be carried.”
Kevin Arnold, rescue product manager for Ferrara, answers, “Heavy Rescues are mission-driven, extreme, custom all-purpose fire apparatus. Each one starts with the main purpose of its existence, determined by its community that has distinctive yet common goals on how its rescues are laid out, deployed, then executed at the scene.”
Allan Smith, apparatus sales manager, Colden Enterprises, Inc. a western New York Spartan ER dealer, adds, “I think ‘heavy rescue’ is another one of those undefined industry terms like ‘class A pumper’ and ‘heavy-duty ladder.’ ”
|7 CustomFIRE delivered this single-axled heavy rescue to Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a four-door custom cab and raised roof.|
“I have found over the past 35 years of producing emergency vehicles that the term ‘heavy,’ when associated with rescue, varies greatly from agency to agency,” says Eddie Smith, director, Emergency Vehicles Group of VT Hackney. “Considering I am a manufacturer that strives to fulfill the wishes of the customer, I have found myself applying the words ‘heavy rescue’ to the sides of rescue truck bodies mounted on a light-duty Ford F-550. The premise is if that is what they want it called, who am I to question that? However, based on definitive criteria determining rescue team classification by many states, the term is now becoming more recognized as applying only to an apparatus that is capable of transporting the vast amount of heavy equipment required to meet the heavy classification. We have delivered a lot of tractor-trailer apparatus classified as ‘technical’ or ‘heavy’ rescues that included a full complement of up to 14-foot-long timbers and fin form shoring panels prestaged with Strong-Arms, a heavy and bulky Stanley power tool with breakers, a full complement of airshores, stabilizer jacks, cribbing, and all the typical rescue equipment for extrication, confined space ventilation, breathing air carts, torches, and the list goes on and on. I posture that when an apparatus leaves a bay loaded like that it can legitimately be classified as a heavy rescue.”
|8 A walk-in-style heavy rescue for Dale City, Maryland, photographed before graphics were applied. The cab storage compartment is transverse.|
I cannot find where or if the United States armed forces, a large purchaser of fire apparatus, has a formal description for a heavy rescue. Department of Defense paper Number 6055.06, titled “DOD Fire & Emergency Services (F&ES) Program,” defines structural apparatus such as engines, ladders (trucks), and quints. In Enclosure 6 of the document, titled “Apparatus Requirements,” is E184.108.40.206., titled “Other Specialized Apparatus,” which states, “Provide where required to meet level of service objectives that cannot be addressed by structural or ARFF apparatus above. Other specialized apparatus shall comply with the provisions of the applicable NFPA standard.”
|9 A walk-in-style heavy rescue for Dale City, Maryland, photographed before graphics were applied. The cab storage compartment is transverse.|
An unofficial Web site featuring military rigs shows an Air Force P38 heavy rescue truck on a custom chassis. The rig has a 33,000-pound laden weight and a 24,000-pound unladen weight. Air Force specs seem more definitive in the size and weight of the vehicle so it can be aircraft-transportable. The other services seem to emulate the civilian fire departments in the size and requirements of rescue trucks.
Tom Shand, senior partner at Emergency Vehicle Response, comments, “The U.S. Navy Fire and Emergency Services operates both medium and heavy hazmat/rescue vehicles in its fleet. The difference between these two units is that the heavy designation is given to vehicles that are designed with a custom chassis, three-door command cab that incorporates a resource area, controls for a camera tower with the unit carrying a wide range of hazmat mitigation gear, four-bottle air cascade system, power-takeoff-driven generator, and light tower. As the requirements and hazards at Naval installations vary, the equipment cache can vary somewhat with the smaller, medium hazmat/rescue units equipped with a nonwalk-in body, upper body compartments, and a full drop-down access ladder.”
|10 This Marion delivered to the Continental Village Fire Department in Garrison, New York, is a “wet rescue,” meaning it has a pump and booster tank. Rescue 39 has a 500-gallon-per-minute pump, a 500-gallon tank, and a preconnect on each side in the compartments immediately behind the cab. (Photo courtesy of Marion.)|
Special Service Fire Apparatus
NFPA 1901, Section 10, establishes the criteria for special service fire apparatus, which sentence 3.3.164 defines as, “A multipurpose vehicle that primarily provides support services at emergency scenes.” In the appendix, sentence A.3.3.164 states: “These services could be rescue, command, hazardous material containment, air supply, electrical generation and floodlighting, or transportation of support equipment and personnel.” It appears a special service rig is anything the purchaser wants it to be – including a heavy rescue. It doesn’t say anything about size or capabilities. It does, however, show a miscellaneous equipment allowance in Table 12.1.2 that shows seven equipment weight allowances OEMs must provide for special service apparatus based on the rig’s GVWR. The minimum GVWR listed is 10,000 pounds.
|11 An E-ONE CBRN vehicle recently delivered to China. CBRN denotes a containment vehicle to respond to chemical, biological, radioactive, and nuclear incidents. While not called a heavy rescue, this unit has a 15,000-pound front axle GVWR, a 23,000-pound rear axle GVWR, and a four-door six-person MAN European cab. It features a 17-foot-long E-ONE extruded aluminum body made in America. It meets Chinese certification requirements. I wonder if that chassis will be seen domestically in the future. (Photos 11-12 courtesy of E-ONE.)|
Section 10 has a minimum list of equipment that must be carried on any special service apparatus regardless of what it is called. The Appendix provides a separate list of equipment the purchaser “should consider” for special service apparatus designed for rescue operations and one for rigs designed for hazardous material containment. The standard does acknowledge that purchasers should evaluate specific equipment needs based on their individual response areas and intended vehicle functions. Whether or not fire departments follow “should consider” equipment lists is a local matter. It appears a purchaser can call its special service apparatus a light, medium or heavy rescue; a squad; a special hazards; or anything it wants. I do not believe NFPA 1901 should mandate rescue truck classifications, nor should it specify the minimum equipment to be carried or even recommend what ancillary equipment should be carried. That is a local matter. I say let the NFPA mandate the rig to be safe and let the fire department determine what to carry on it based on individual requirements and local protocols.
ISO and Service Companies
The Insurance Services Office (ISO) Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS) requires two engine companies and a ladder company or a service company to respond to structural alarms. The FSRS describes a service company and the equipment it should carry. I interpret that the ISO gives some credit for a suitably equipped service company when a ladder truck is not available or not required in a specific area. OEMs should advise smaller fire departments without a ladder company to check with their local ISO office before purchasing a support vehicle. Possibly by adding a few ground ladders or some miscellaneous equipment, a department may enhance its ISO rating. Ask for an answer in writing.
USAR and Multifunction Rescues
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has more than two dozen USAR teams (task forces) in the United States, each operating under the auspices of a local agency – usually the fire department. A Tier 1 task force must be capable of transporting, via various means, a cache of more than 60,000 pounds of equipment. When the sponsoring agency is a fire department, some have combined large vehicles to haul USAR equipment with the functions of a local rescue company. In 2013, Alan Petrillo authored an article titled, “USAR and Heavy Rescue Vehicles Become New Breed of Multipurpose Apparatus,” which highlights several apparatus manufacturers that build such rigs. Several of their comments include: “Fire departments combine the USAR function with heavy rescue operations and apparatus.” “When the USAR function is combined with a heavy rescue truck, it can be difficult to precisely define where USAR ends and typical rescue begins.” “USAR vehicles are typically folded into heavy rescue units. They usually are combination vehicles; the equipment you see on heavy rescues can be used in USAR work along with the specialized USAR equipment.”
|12 An E-ONE CBRN vehicle recently delivered to China. CBRN denotes a containment vehicle to respond to chemical, biological, radioactive, and nuclear incidents. While not called a heavy rescue, this unit has a 15,000-pound front axle GVWR, a 23,000-pound rear axle GVWR, and a four-door six-person MAN European cab. It features a 17-foot-long E-ONE extruded aluminum body made in America. It meets Chinese certification requirements. I wonder if that chassis will be seen domestically in the future. (Photos 11-12 courtesy of E-ONE.)|
As far as I have discerned, FEMA has no criteria for how equipment is carried. FEMA just lists the equipment cache that must be available, regardless of the mode of transportation. It appears specifications for apparatus that will haul USAR equipment are locally generated. I interpret it that as long as a fire-department-operated rig is compliant with “applicable parts” of NFPA 1901 and Chapter 10, in particular, everyone is happy. Too bad it’s not in writing anyplace.
Fire departments participating in a USAR task force – or a department trying to emulate one – can be catalysts for specifying large vehicles that can be called heavy duty merely by their size. Concurrently, local fire departments are forever upgrading and adding equipment to better handle their other-than-firematic capabilities. While some departments operate job-specific units handling tasks such as hazmat, trench rescue, high rise, water rescue, and collapse, others are combining as much as they can into a single-function apparatus. It is no different than having pumper-tankers, quints, and rescue-pumpers. The size of these rigs is only limited by Department of Transportation regulations; available storage space in fire stations; imaginations; and, in some instances, cost.
Squabbling over what the NFPA, manufacturers, and purchasers call a heavy rescue is nitpicking and realistically is a nonissue. The precedent being set is a concern. I stated it is troubling when bidders propose what they think a customer wants regardless of the written specification. What else is being proposed that a bidder thought the customer really wanted? If it happens in one place, it can happen in others. Meeting the intent of a specification does not necessarily mean the technical portions of a specification are met – regardless of what a bidder claims.
Do bidders have the right to propose what they think a purchaser really wants? Imagine if a bidder arbitrarily proposed a 20-kW generator in lieu of a 30-kW specified, a four-bottle cascade system in lieu of a six-bottle system specified, a 400-hp motor in lieu of the 450-hp motor specified, or one body material in lieu of another. At some point, an accusation could be made that a bidder is second guessing the purchaser or is seeking an unfair bidding advantage. Purchasers should ensure specifications are accurate, concise, and to the point.
|13 A 24-foot-long nonwalk-in rescue for the Dumfries-Triangle (VA) Volunteer Fire Department. It features a custom cab with raised roof and more than 700 cubic feet of compartmentation. (Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)|
There is no cast-in-concrete definition of a heavy rescue truck, and there doesn’t have to be. There is no intent to denigrate any rescue truck manufacturer or purchaser. Rescue trucks today can cost more than $1 million. Purchasers should know what they are purchasing. They should know which standards a rig must comply with and which requirements and recommendations they should consider complying with. Vendors should help educate the consumers. That is an unwritten part of their job.
The purchasing spec in the first paragraph could have said: “The apparatus shall be compliant with NFPA 1901 Chapter 10 – Special Service Fire Apparatus and to the technical specifications listed herein.” Or, it could have said something similar to being “compliant with any applicable NFPA 1901 criteria for special service fire apparatus.” Purchasers should be fair to the apparatus manufacturers and themselves – don’t specify something that cannot be defined. It will simplify the competitive bidding process, it will make evaluating bids uncomplicated, and it will generally make life easier for both buyer and seller.
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.