Most rural fire departments in the United States rely on tankers to bring water to a fire scene—the more, the better. However, in the case of the Hecktown Fire Company in lower Nazareth Township, Pennsylvania, members decided they needed more from a new apparatus purchase.
According to Chief Jeff Seip, the department decided to go with a dry side tanker, primarily because it wanted to be proactive. It wanted a full-size hosebed and to have some compartmentation to carry fittings, tools, and ladders just like a normal engine company.
In addition, Hecktown spec’d a 4,000-gallon tank and a 1,750-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pump in case it has to shuttle water to a fire scene so it can operate as a multiuse firefighting vehicle.
“We usually try to replace front-line fire apparatus every 20 years if possible,” says Seip. “If we can, we try for 25 to 30 years if the vehicles are mechanically sound. So about two years ago, we decided to look into our previous tanker’s condition and decided to spec a new piece of apparatus to replace the older unit. Although we shopped around and looked at other manufacturers before we made a decision, we went with 4 Guys. We already had experience with 4 Guys since we had an engine manufactured by them in the past. Our fire company is lucky in that we own all of our equipment, so we don’t have to go out to bid. Not to say that we don’t look at all of our options. Our committee looked at what was out there as far as manufacturers, chassis, pumps, tanks, and compartment layouts.”
4 Guys/Peterbilt Tanker
Hecktown Volunteer Fire Company, Nazareth Township, PA
According to Seip, “The department went with 4 Guys because it was happy with the previous purchase, 4 Guys was easy to work with and tells you right off the bat if ideas are feasible, the quality was there, and its experience building tankers. Also, the factory, which we visited several times during the build, was only four hours away from our response area, and that made visits during the build process easier.”
The design Hecktown came up with has a Peterbuilt 389 chassis with a two-seat cab. Cost was primarily the reason not to go with a custom cab. Seip says, “The chassis is strong, and since we were going to carry 4,000 gallons of water, this was a must. The chassis on the new tanker is a little taller than our previous vehicle and bigger and wider, but the chassis size, which is larger, was the deciding factor.”
Compartment size was almost the same, so Hecktown personnel just had to transfer equipment over. The pump, layout, and valves were similar to the department’s old tanker, so training was minimal. Drivers had to practice because the turning radius was bigger than the old truck.
Seip says that new technology with electric valves and modular components makes it easier for service. “We can just replace components if they go bad,” he says. “I really felt the new technology was better than the old. Training wasn’t that much longer to get the new vehicle in service. It took a year from specs to delivery. The factory was visited several times. Prebuild and final, of course, were the norm. We found very few changes while we were at the factory. The only real issues were concerning mounting tools.”
The members also decided it was best to go with new technology as far as the pump panel, with electric gate valves and operation, was concerned. The modular units that control the operation of the pump can be easily replaced and make downtime and maintenance of the vehicle easier for all involved.
The Hecktown Volunteer Fire Company was proactive in its thinking with this apparatus purchase. While it had to replace an existing tanker, it wanted to expand the operations of the unit. The way to go for the fire company was to make it a multiuse fire apparatus. It can be used as a conventional tanker as well as an engine company with personnel backup if needed.
“We put the tanker in service approximately two months after delivery,” says Seip. “We wanted to make sure all of our members were on the same page as far as driving and training were concerned. It turned out great for us.”
So, you see proper planning and thinking outside of the box made this apparatus purchase an easy decision for the members, officers, and chiefs of the Hecktown Volunteer Fire Company. They received a functional, multiuse fire apparatus that can be used as a conventional tanker and engine company, which will suit them for the next 20 to 25 years.
BOB VACCARO has more than 40 years of fire service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (NY) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol, and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. He is a life member of the IAFC.