Alan M. Petrillo
The McNabb (IL) Fire Protection District was seeking to purchase a combination vehicle that could be used as a quick-attack pumper, a brush truck, and a first-response rescue vehicle in its primarily rural and agricultural protection area. McNabb firefighters scouted out a number of types of vehicles from several manufacturers and eventually determined that Alexis Fire Equipment was the apparatus maker they wanted to work with.
“We went with Alexis because of their sales team as well as their location and the service they provide,” says Bradley P. Popurella, chief of McNabb. “One concern we had was that if any issues developed with the vehicle, we wanted a company that understands the issues facing a small, rural fire department, which Alexis does. Plus, the Alexis factory and service center is only one and a half hours away from us.”
DEMO UNIT ADDRESSES NEEDS
Popurella says he had been talking with Stan Froelich, the Alexis sales representative, about the specifications for a combination vehicle and that Froelich mentioned Alexis was finishing up building a demo unit that had the hallmarks of what McNabb seemed to be looking for. “We went out with Stan and toured the Alexis plant and were able to see the truck he told us about as it was being built,” Popurella points out. “We found they had put together exactly what we needed, so we decided on the Alexis truck.”
Scott Morris, vice president of Alexis Fire Equipment, says that the McNabb Fire Protection District was a past Alexis customer for equipment but not apparatus. “We had come up with a design that had a new personnel carrier behind the cab called Attack Zone, where the firefighters can be seated, belted, and protected by a roll cage and gates,” Morris says. “We had started building a demo incorporating the new personnel carrier when the McNabb firefighters started talking with us. They liked the feature that had the firefighters safely protected while still able to use a hoseline discharge adjacent to them.”
Morris says the rig features two seats, back-to-back, along the centerline of the vehicle and facing out but protected by split metal gates. “There’s a one-inch handline for each belted position,” he says. “The positions are behind the 60-inch cab but don’t affect the wheelbase on the vehicle.”
Alexis Fire Equipment Quick-Attack/Brush Truck/First-Response Vehicle
The combination vehicle is built on a Ford F-550 XL 4×4 four-door DRW chassis and cab powered by a 300-horsepower (hp) Ford Power Stroke 6.7-liter V8 diesel engine and a Ford TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission. The rig has a heavy-duty 3⁄16-inch aluminum body, Luverne Black Baja four-door cab steps, and an Alexis designed and built custom stainless steel brush guard with an integrated Akron Brass turret and two spray booms—all electrically controlled from the cab.
The McNabb vehicle has a 176-inch wheelbase and is 22 feet 9 inches long and 8 feet 7 inches high. It has a 7,000-pound front axle rating, a 14,706-pound rear axle rating, a 19,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), a Code 3 electronic siren with two 100-watt Code 3 speakers, a Code 3 LED warning light package, and a Code 3 LED scene light package.
The rig has a Darley 1.5 AGE pump with a 20-hp Honda gasoline engine for pump and roll, a 300-gallon water tank, a 10-gallon foam tank, two one-inch booster lines with 10 feet of hose for each seat in the Attack Zone, one 2½-inch and one 1¾-inch discharge at the rear, and a Hannay reel with 150 feet of one-inch booster hose.
Froelich notes that the combination vehicle “has the Alexis ultimate off-road package that includes larger than average tires on the front axle and aggressive tread tires on the rear dualies.”
Popurella adds that McNabb requested the lift kit and big tires on the rig. “They allow us to take the vehicle deep into a muddy field and get access along some of the tree lines that otherwise might not be accessible with standard four-wheel drive vehicles,” he says. “Our drivers like the ground clearance on the new truck too and the fact the cab is set up to accommodate four firefighters with plenty of room in the crew area. The vehicle has excellent balance and weight distribution.”
Froelich says, “When the McNabb people came out to the plant, we showed them the truck, they took it out and pumped it, went over it very carefully, and then went out for an RFP, which eventually was awarded to Alexis. They especially liked the fact that it has the roll cage and seating area behind the cab where firefighters can ride and be compliant with today’s NFPA standard of being seated and belted and protected by a roll cage and front bars when the truck is in motion.”
McNabb (IL) Fire Protection District
Popurella agrees that the Alexis Attack Zone was most impressive to his firefighters. “We can go to a scene where we have a good amount of area burning and have a driver plus one or two firefighters in the Attack Zone put out a ton of fire between the firefighters behind the cab and the Akron Brass turret and the ground sprayers up front,” he says. “One of the issues we face is staffing, so even if we have only a driver on the truck, he can turn on the turret and sprayers and knock down a lot of fire before getting the automatic mutual-aid companies in to the scene to help.”
He adds, “We have a lot of agricultural businesses and the chemical companies that service them, and we cover a lot of space in Putnam and LaSalle counties. This vehicle allows us to get out to them quickly and handle issues in a fast and efficient manner.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.