Adams, Apparatus, Rescues

Dollars and Sense: Rescue Truck Options

Issue 6 and Volume 22.

By Bill Adams

1 This walk-in rescue features roll-up doors, three compartments ahead of a single rear axle, and a rear recessed entry door into the body. Body windows can be fixed or slide to open. Windows reduce the area available for interior storage. (Photos courtesy of Rescue 1.)
1 This walk-in rescue features roll-up doors, three compartments ahead of a single rear axle, and a rear recessed entry door into the body. Body windows can be fixed or slide to open. Windows reduce the area available for interior storage. (Photos courtesy of Rescue 1.)

The cost of individual components is one element of fire apparatus purchasing that can cause undue angst, confusion, and animosity between fire apparatus purchasing committee (APC) members.

2 This large tandem-axled walk-around rescue has a recessed lift-up stairwell accessing coffin compartments on top. Note the grab handles mounted at the side of each exterior equipment compartment. Under-body storage, if not properly sealed, can be a magnet for moisture and road debris. Under-body compartments also affect the angles of approach and departure between the axles - an item often overlooked until the crunch is heard.
2 This large tandem-axled walk-around rescue has a recessed lift-up stairwell accessing coffin compartments on top. Note the grab handles mounted at the side of each exterior equipment compartment. Under-body storage, if not properly sealed, can be a magnet for moisture and road debris. Under-body compartments also affect the angles of approach and departure between the axles – an item often overlooked until the crunch is heard.

Well-to-do committees seldom question each line item price. Those subject to strict fiscal oversight are more cost conscious. Financially strapped fire companies relying on ham-and-bean dinners and donations to buy a fire truck are justified in substantiating every dime spent. It is necessary for APCs to “price out” apparatus components to establish a purchasing budget. However, it is difficult for manufacturers to provide an exact price for each item that is applicable nationwide. At national trade shows when vendors are asked how much a particular feature costs, the price is usually given as being in the neighborhood of or an approximate cost. Vendors are not being dishonest or elusive. There are too many variables; some are alluded to below.

3 A walk-in rescue body with a flush-mounted side entry door on a two-door commercial chassis
3 A walk-in rescue body with a flush-mounted side entry door on a two-door commercial chassis.

This first “Dollars and Sense” article features a few options commonly found on rescue trucks. Mike Marquis, vice president, rescue sales with Rescue 1, provided photographs and approximate prices. While many manufacturers fabricate rescues as part of diversified product lines, Marquis said rescues are the only vehicles Rescue 1 manufactures, building about 18 rigs per year of all sizes. It is a separate division of PL Custom Body, which has been around since 1946. Marquis says, “We specialize in heavy rescues.” My commentary, based on experience in the business and as a volunteer firefighter, is not passing judgment on product, design, or layout.

4 A large flat-backed walk-in rescue body on a tandem-axle chassis features a flush-mounted rear entry door, hinged compartment doors, and an “over-the-top” access ladder to the roof. Note the over-height side compartment behind the rear axle. Although a rescue may meet the NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, step-height requirement, some purchasers opt for an extra step for safety and convenience. This unit has a fold-down grip strut step
4 A large flat-backed walk-in rescue body on a tandem-axle chassis features a flush-mounted rear entry door, hinged compartment doors, and an “over-the-top” access ladder to the roof. Note the over-height side compartment behind the rear axle. Although a rescue may meet the NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, step-height requirement, some purchasers opt for an extra step for safety and convenience. This unit has a fold-down grip strut step.

I have no preference for how a rescue truck is built, what materials are used, or what equipment is carried on it. Nor am I partial to commercial or custom chassis, walk-in or walk around rescues, or single or tandem rear axles. Brand names are shown for reference only. Equipment layouts, unique to each fire department, shouldn’t be criticized. Marquis points out that each manufacturer has its own fabrication methods, and ballpark pricing can vary greatly between them.

5 This walk-around rescue has the top of the body notched above the access ladder, allowing easy egress to the center walkway and topside coffin compartments.
5 This walk-around rescue has the top of the body notched above the access ladder, allowing easy egress to the center walkway and topside coffin compartments.

Walk-in or Walk-Around

Marquis says, “Walk-in rescue body designs (photo 1), in general, are more expensive than walk-around (photo 2) styles. Seating areas need to be climate controlled, requiring the body to be insulated. Usually there’s seating for the crew, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) storage, entrance door windows, body side windows, roof escape hatch, counters, interior cabinetry, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) seat belt monitoring system, ceiling lights, intercom systems, maybe a pass-through from body to cab, and the list continues. Based on a 22-foot body length, a walk-in rescue could cost an additional $25,000 more than a walk-around model of the same length. Depending on the interior layout and length, a body side access door could have a similar cost as a rear entry door unit (photo 3).”

6 A hydraulically operated lift-up staircase accesses the center walkway and topside coffin compartments on this walk-around rescue. The upper body corners are constructed with high-angle eyelets. Some manufacturers do this as their standard body construction. The lower horizontal arrow shows the door accessing the hydraulic controls for the lift-up staircase. There are fewer lights shining in a climber’s eyes on this rig than the one in photo 5.
6 A hydraulically operated lift-up staircase accesses the center walkway and topside coffin compartments on this walk-around rescue. The upper body corners are constructed with high-angle eyelets. Some manufacturers do this as their standard body construction. The lower horizontal arrow shows the door accessing the hydraulic controls for the lift-up staircase. There are fewer lights shining in a climber’s eyes on this rig than the one in photo 5.

Is interior seating a necessity if a large crew cab is specified? It’s time for some soul searching. When evaluating, ask your vendor the difference in cost between a custom cab with six seats vs. one with 10 seats. Rescue trucks are big toolboxes on wheels. Are you purchasing space in the box to carry equipment or dead space to access interior seating? A 76-inch-high walkway that’s 42 inches wide and 16 feet long contains more than 354 cubic feet of possible storage space. Doesn’t sound like much? A 2,600-gallon booster tank will fit in the same space.

7 This walk-around rescue has a manually operated lift-up recessed staircase mounted on the side of the body. The body top is also notched for access to a center walkway. The horizontal arrow shows a drop-down grip-strut step.
7 This walk-around rescue has a manually operated lift-up recessed staircase mounted on the side of the body. The body top is also notched for access to a center walkway. The horizontal arrow shows a drop-down grip-strut step.

Roof Access

Accessing roofs on walk-in bodies is usually via over-the-top access ladders (photo 4). Walk-arounds can be accessed similarly (photo 5). If large, bulky, or heavy equipment must be accessed and removed – especially in a hurry – a wide staircase might be advisable (photo 6). According to Marquis, “A custom built or access ladder with notching of the body at top to egress could run $2,500. A full lift-up hydraulically operated stairway runs from $5,000 to $7,000 (photos 2, 6, and 8). A side staircase is less because of manual lifting (photo 7). Some manufacturers build slide-out and tilt-down stairways, but we think a full hydraulic lift-up stairway is much safer and easier to operate in the field.” Although stairways are more expensive than ladders, firefighter safety must be a consideration, one that shouldn’t be negotiable.

8 A rear lift-up staircase in the full up position. The horizontal arrow shows the staircase hydraulic controls with its door opened.
8 A rear lift-up staircase in the full up position. The horizontal arrow shows the staircase hydraulic controls with its door opened.

Generators

Besides cost, the physical space occupied by a generator should be a consideration. Photo 9 shows a power-takeoff (PTO) operated generator mounted under the chassis frames rails. Photo 10 is a roof-mounted hydraulic generator. Photo 11 shows a generator permanently mounted in a side compartment, and photo 12 depicts a portable generator mounted on a slide-out tray. Marquis says, “A 35-kW PTO-driven generator mounted under the chassis frame rails is around $12,000. A 30-kW hydraulic generator, recess roof mounted, is $25,000 to $30,000, depending on the style of the rescue body. A fixed mounted 13.5-kW gen-set is about $18,000. A slide-tray-mounted portable generator based on 3,500 Watts is $5,000 to $7,500. The 120/240-volt electrical distribution panels and circuit breakers are additional.” The size of a generator is usually based on operational requirements. The model, type of drive unit, and location are often “negotiated” at a committee level.

9 A PTO-operated generator located beneath the chassis cab under the frame rails.
9 A PTO-operated generator located beneath the chassis cab under the frame rails.

SCBA Fill Stations and Storage

“A compartment-mounted compressor/SCBA fill station with a two-bottle fill enclosure with (four to six) DOT/UN 4,500- to 6,000-pounds-per-square-inch vessels is $30,000 to $35,000,” says Marquis. “Brand and style may vary costs. ASME air vessels will cost more. Rescue 1 manufactures its own spare SCBA bottle storage racks that are sized to fit customers’ bottles and poly-coated for protection. Outsourced bottle racks can be purchased also. Cost, depending on requested brand and quantity of pockets, can run $1,500 to $3,000 (photo 13).” Consider after-the-sale access of large compressed air storage vessels for repair, replacement, and hydrostatic testing.

10 A light tower in the nested position and a hydraulically operated generator are recess-mounted on top of a walk-around rescue. Light towers mounted on top of a body or chassis cab are subject to damage by low-hanging tree limbs and “defective” overhead doors in fire stations
10 A light tower in the nested position and a hydraulically operated generator are recess-mounted on top of a walk-around rescue. Light towers mounted on top of a body or chassis cab are subject to damage by low-hanging tree limbs and “defective” overhead doors in fire stations.

Telescoping Floodlights

Marquis says, “Depending on the brand, type (fixed or removable tripod style), model of light head, and quartz or LED, prices can vary from $1,500 to $2,500 each (photos 2 and 3).” Purchasers may want to consider interacting with the actual light manufacturers to ascertain the best “size and type” of lamps recommended for the purchasers’ individual requirements.

11 A gen-set permanently mounted in a side compartment aft of the rear axles negates the use of the compartment for equipment storage.
11 A gen-set permanently mounted in a side compartment aft of the rear axles negates the use of the compartment for equipment storage.

Light Towers

Marquis says, “Light towers can run from $18,000 to $35,000, depending on the brand, quantity of light heads, and if housings are LED or halogen (photo 10).” Competent APCs usually can justify the capacity of a fire pump or the length of an aerial they are specifying. Can they justify why a particular size light tower is being specified?

12 This portable generator is mounted on a slide-out tray. If operated in this position, show care when refueling. Not being floor-mounted may make removing it challenging. Detailed blueprints showing equipment storage do not necessarily reflect real life on the fireground.
12 This portable generator is mounted on a slide-out tray. If operated in this position, show care when refueling. Not being floor-mounted may make removing it challenging. Detailed blueprints showing equipment storage do not necessarily reflect real life on the fireground.

Slide Trays

13 A typical compartment-mounted SCBA fill station. Spare SCBA bottle storage can be custom manufactured or outsourced. The arrow points to a recessed receiver mounted in the wheel well for a portable winch.
13 A typical compartment-mounted SCBA fill station. Spare SCBA bottle storage can be custom manufactured or outsourced. The arrow points to a recessed receiver mounted in the wheel well for a portable winch.

According to Marquis, “The industry uses a number of manufacturers. Depending on the width, depth, and weight capacity (250, 500, 600, 1,000, and 2,000 pounds) of the slides, costs can vary from $1,500 to $3,000 each.” He notes that trays can be provided with the slide mechanisms mounted on the sides rather than underneath the tray. “They are generally designed to make better use of the vertical space available in the compartments,” says Marquis. “They generally sit approximately two to three inches lower than the under-tray-slide hardware does. The weight ratings are not as high, but in areas where vertical space is critical, these slides are great. Costs are approximately $1,500 to $3,000 and are brand-driven.” Slide-out and tilt-down trays are available. “Depending on the brand of the slide and the depth of the tray, the cost is $1,000 to $2,000 each. Most are rated for 250 to 300 pounds.”

14 A rear lift-up staircase in the full up position with storage behind it for a portable winch, backboards, stokes basket, pike poles, and an extension ladder. Most manufacturers offer various materials for steps - some have more aggressive surfaces than others.
14 A rear lift-up staircase in the full up position with storage behind it for a portable winch, backboards, stokes basket, pike poles, and an extension ladder. Most manufacturers offer various materials for steps – some have more aggressive surfaces than others.

Be fair to the apparatus manufacturers. Anticipate the future. Don’t purchase a 250-pound-capacity slide-out tray today and two years from now decide to carry 500 pounds on it and then complain the manufacturer built a “lousy truck.”

15 A portable winch mounted and plugged in at an over-the-wheel-well receiver position. Marquis says, “The 9,000-pound portable winch with four receiver positions and 12-volt power at each location is approximately $5,500 with jumper cable and a removable tow eye included.”
15 A portable winch mounted and plugged in at an over-the-wheel-well receiver position. Marquis says, “The 9,000-pound portable winch with four receiver positions and 12-volt power at each location is approximately $5,500 with jumper cable and a removable tow eye included.”

Air Bag Storage

Marquis says, “Each air bag storage module is custom built for the fire department inventory of air bags. Storage pockets for the air manifold and air hoses are usually included. Depending on the quantity of air bags and hoses, this module could cost around $1,500 to $2,000 (photos 19 and 20).” Is the department anticipating purchasing additional air bags in the future?

16 Typical tool mounting on a frame rail depth vertically mounted pull-out tool board. Vertical boards mounted on top of the frame rails can be longer in depth. The arrow shows a pull strap to access the roll-up door.
16 Typical tool mounting on a frame rail depth vertically mounted pull-out tool board. Vertical boards mounted on top of the frame rails can be longer in depth. The arrow shows a pull strap to access the roll-up door.

Vertical Slide-Out Tool Boards

According to Marquis, “Tool boards vary in style, design, and weight capacities. The tool board depths will change, depending on the locations of where they are positioned. The prices can vary from $1,500 to $3,000 each (photos 16 and 17).”

17 This unfinished compartment shows three vertical pull-out tool boards and three adjustable shelves
17 This unfinished compartment shows three vertical pull-out tool boards and three adjustable shelves.

Reels

18 A pull-out tilt-down tray with custom built tool holders. It is appropriately marked heavy. Use care when opening any tilt-down tray. An unsecured tool could be a flying projectile at face level. Look to the future when purchasing custom-built tool holders welded in place. Replacement tools and newer models may not be the same size.
18 A pull-out tilt-down tray with custom built tool holders. It is appropriately marked heavy. Use care when opening any tilt-down tray. An unsecured tool could be a flying projectile at face level. Look to the future when purchasing custom-built tool holders welded in place. Replacement tools and newer models may not be the same size.

Regarding reels, Marquis says, “Compartment- or bumper-mounted HRT reel cost is brand-driven, approximately $5,000 to $6,000 installed. Plumbing from the hydraulic power unit to the reel is additional.” Cost is based on the distance between the power unit and the reel’s location such as the power unit being in the rear of the apparatus and the reel mounted on the front bumper. “A compartment-mounted electric reel with 200 feet of 10/4 cable with a junction box, 120/240 volt, is approximately $4,000 each,” says Marquis. “A low-pressure utility air reel costs roughly $1,500. A high-pressure breathing air air reel is roughly $3,000. The utility and breathing air reels need to be plumbed to either an onboard air compressor or plumbed and regulated to the breathing air onboard vessels. This plumbing is not included in the price.”

19 Another pull-out tilt-down tray with air bag storage above it. Note the tops and bottoms of each air bag cubby are “scalloped,” allowing a gloved hand to reach in and access the bags. If an item is not in your purchasing specifications, it does not exist.
19 Another pull-out tilt-down tray with air bag storage above it. Note the tops and bottoms of each air bag cubby are “scalloped,” allowing a gloved hand to reach in and access the bags. If an item is not in your purchasing specifications, it does not exist.

Portable Winch

Marquis says, “A 9,000-pound-capacity four-point portable winch system with four receiver positions with 12-volt power at each location is approximately $5,500 with jumper cable and removable tow eye included.”

20 This pull-out tilt-down tray in the stowed position is mounted above air bag storage. Straps secure the tray’s contents. Note grab handles on either side of the compartment.
20 This pull-out tilt-down tray in the stowed position is mounted above air bag storage. Straps secure the tray’s contents. Note grab handles on either side of the compartment.

Tool Mounting

21 A rear storage compartment with stacked slide-out trays and ladder storage at the top. Ladders must be pulled straight out and level. These hinged compartment doors were designed to open past the usual 90 degrees away from the body to access storage. Note the chevron striping on the inside of the doors.
21 A rear storage compartment with stacked slide-out trays and ladder storage at the top. Ladders must be pulled straight out and level. These hinged compartment doors were designed to open past the usual 90 degrees away from the body to access storage. Note the chevron striping on the inside of the doors.

Marquis states, “Most OEMs can manufacture a rescue unit that looks good from a distance. Although a great functioning rescue is more than looks. It’s designed to carry lifesaving equipment. The equipment should be easy to find and access without a lot of effort to remove. Tool mounting is the last stage but the most important step of manufacturing a rescue. The primary job of a rescue unit is to carry tools to the scene. If you cannot easily find and access the tools, then your new rescue isn’t performing as it should. It’s the last expense but the most important dollars you will invest. A good rule of thumb for estimating the cost for tool mounting is $1,500 per foot times the length of the rescue body. For most fire departments, this will cover the cost. An average tool mounting job takes about three weeks for two experienced technicians to hand craft custom tool mounts. Having mounts and locations for all tools and equipment carried aboard will also make it easier to inventory the equipment before leaving the scene.” I agree with him on tool mounting but advise a degree of caution. Welded tool holders welded in place may be there forever.

22 This medium-width compartment is packed. There’s lower storage for a toolbox and seven open-topped polypropylene boxes, two slide-out trays extending inside the body over the frame rails, and a center-mounted slide-out tool board (up and down arrows) for long-handled items. Two electric and one air reel are mounted at the top. The lower left-facing arrow shows a drop-down grip-strut step. Marquis says, “Our grip-strut flip-down compartment access steps are rated at 500 pounds. They store inside the compartments behind closed doors to prevent ice and mud buildup. Depending on the location and width of the step, the cost is approximately $700 each.”
22 This medium-width compartment is packed. There’s lower storage for a toolbox and seven open-topped polypropylene boxes, two slide-out trays extending inside the body over the frame rails, and a center-mounted slide-out tool board (up and down arrows) for long-handled items. Two electric and one air reel are mounted at the top. The lower left-facing arrow shows a drop-down grip-strut step. Marquis says, “Our grip-strut flip-down compartment access steps are rated at 500 pounds. They store inside the compartments behind closed doors to prevent ice and mud buildup. Depending on the location and width of the step, the cost is approximately $700 each.”

Gone are the days when a committee specifies a rescue truck with two shelves and a 250-pound slide tray in each compartment and, on delivery, just hurls the equipment in wherever it fits. Structural fires are down. Rescue, hazmat, technical, and specialized responses are increasing. Rescue trucks are often the primary response vehicles. Regardless of whether it has a job-specific mission or is a jack-of-all trades support vehicle, its effectiveness will be measured by how efficiently and safely the equipment carried can be deployed at an incident. That is determined in the design phase when the APC picks and chooses available options.

23 A grip-strut step in the down position. Note the grab handles in photos 2 and 20, which aid using these steps in accessing equipment in the upper sections of compartments
23 A grip-strut step in the down position. Note the grab handles in photos 2 and 20, which aid using these steps in accessing equipment in the upper sections of compartments.

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 more than 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

24 Not every compartment needs slide-out trays and tool boards for effective tool storage. This unit has individual cubbies designed for specific items. Hinged compartment doors can double as slide-out vertical tool boards. Bear in mind, the thickness of door-mounted tools lessens the usable compartment depth by the same amount. Air and HRT reels are mounted high
24 Not every compartment needs slide-out trays and tool boards for effective tool storage. This unit has individual cubbies designed for specific items. Hinged compartment doors can double as slide-out vertical tool boards. Bear in mind, the thickness of door-mounted tools lessens the usable compartment depth by the same amount. Air and HRT reels are mounted high.