The Engine Company: The Maryland Way in Prince George’s County
BY RICKY RILEY
Prince George’s County, Maryland, is located right outside Washington, D.C. The Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department is one of the largest combination departments in the country.
It is led by Chief Benjamin Barksdale and is composed of more than 850 career firefighter/paramedics and 1,500 volunteer firefighters. These personnel operate out of 45 fire stations that protect 500 square miles and close to one million citizens. The call volume for the department grows steadily each year, with more than 151,000 calls for service in 2018, a three percent increase from 2017. The volume of responses will continue to rise with the rapid growth of the county with the addition of industry, commerce, and housing in the past decade.
FIRE APPARATUS REPLACEMENT
In 2013, the department started an apparatus replacement project that was long overdue. The call volume for the department had taken its toll on many of the inner beltway engines, and high mileage and repair costs had really started to soar. With backing from the county executive and county council, the department was able to purchase a number of engines and trucks to help the fleet. These units were purchased from Pierce Manufacturing and were Arrow XT engines and ladders. The engines were assigned to the high-call-volume paramedic engines. The design of these units allowed for advanced life support (ALS) supply storage and compartment room for equipment that was projected to be needed for those areas. The department purchased these pumpers with 750-gallon tanks, which was a first for the department; it had been a strictly 500-gallon tank department. This change was to allow for more water on the initial attack engine, limited access highways, and certain areas that had a mixed response area of urban and possibly sparsely hydranted areas. The hosebeds for these units are low and ergonomically designed to facilitate laying out supply line and deploying attack lines, the key functions of any engine company. With these units in place, there was an immediate lowering of out-of-service (OOS) times because of mechanical issues, providing a better service to the citizens.
With the apparatus plan funded for the upcoming years, the department was able to purchase more engines and additional ladder trucks in 2014. This go-round the department switched to the Pierce Velocity chassis to increase room in the cab for the officer and for storing ALS equipment. It also changed the body design a little bit, giving the rigs shorter overall lengths and making the bodies a little smaller. These units once again went to stations that had some tired apparatus that were in desperate need of replacement.
In late 2016, the department, according to the replacement plan, had a number of engines that were due to be replaced, including some of the rigs purchased in 2013. Some of these engines were well over the 100,000-mile mark and were ready to be rotated to the reserve fleet or slower stations. The design of these units involved an employee-based group that had been involved in the purchase of a new ladder truck earlier in the year. The department had once again looked at another chassis and decided on the Pierce Enforcer chassis for the ladder truck. It was very happy with the look of the chassis, its lower frame rails, and room inside the cab. So in the interest of standardization for apparatus operators and for repairs and parts stock, the department chose to go with the Enforcer chassis for the new engine companies. This allowed for a number of items for the chauffeurs to be in the same location in the cabs, such as switch locations and equipment/electronics positions. It also enabled the apparatus shop to stock the now standard switches, electronics, and parts for this single chassis, notably lowering OOS times and units having to wait on parts from vendors. The shop invested greatly in keeping these parts and pieces on the shelves.
Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Pierce Enforcer Engines
With the 2016 engines purchase, the department worked with its chosen manufacturer to design the body that personnel wanted that would hold all the engine companies’ equipment and to lower the rigs’ overall lengths and wheelbases once again. Personnel in the field wanted small, compact engines that operated well on the county’s congested streets and neighborhoods and still operationally met the needs of their response areas. The design ended up being a 129-inch body with a 14-inch tailboard, which gave the pumpers a rather symmetrical look for the front and rear compartments and provided a suitable platform on the rear of the rig to rack the hose. The flat back design on the rear made for great accessibility and low, friendly attack lines for firefighters of all heights. These attack lines have been the standard for the department since the purchase of the 2013 units. They consist of the following off the rear:
- One 300-foot 1¾-inch line with a 75/150 fog nozzle.
- One 250-foot 2-inch line with a 11⁄16 smooth bore nozzle.
- One 200-foot 1¾-inch line with a 75/150 fog nozzle.
- One 400-foot line consisting of 200 feet of 2½-inch and 200 feet of 1¾-inch with a 75/150 fog nozzle.
The supply line also has been standardized since 2013 with one bed of 1,000 feet of four-inch supply line with Storz couplings and 600 feet of three-inch supply line with 2½-inch couplings. This commonality of attack lines and supply lines has made it easier for firefighters and drivers to work on and at a number of different stations but still have the familiarity of the units and their equipment and attack lines. The department does not run any crosslays on its apparatus and provides a front bumper line for units to handle some incidents from the front to facilitate good apparatus positioning for crew safety.
The new Enforcer rigs have 45-inch pump panels. The size helps reduce the wheelbase and overall length of the units. And, personnel worked to copy all gauge, lever, and valve locations from the 2013 and 2014 units to once again maintain the standardization and familiarity theme going across all new engines. The lower wheelbases and overall lengths created a very tight and very limited workspace for the department’s mechanics. So during the engineering conference, the truck committee made sure to include many swing-out panels, removable panels, and top access for mechanics to service and repair the fire pumps.
Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department 2018 Facts
Water intake is also a top priority for these engines. Each is equipped with a front suction with a swivel to help alleviate any kinking of the front suction hose when positioning. On the officer’s side pump panel is an Akron Revolution valve that is connected to 50 feet of four-inch hose. This allows for the engine to tactically position on incident scenes and stretch this line to the closest hydrant if nearby. This preconnected method assists the driver in making a quick connection to the water source. On the driver’s side pump panel is a dual gated inlet that allows for quickly connecting three-inch supply lines. All these inlets were designed to give the driver a number of options to receive water quickly.
The Enforcer cab has allowed for room for all the engine companies’ electronic equipment such as radios, mobile data computers, map books, tools, and ALS equipment plus all the personal protective equipment and items that firefighters travel with each and every day while assigned to the apparatus. One of the advantages of the Enforcer chassis has been reducing three inches in frame rail height from the 13-inch frame rails on the department’s Arrow XT and Velocity chassis. This reduction has allowed for ground ladders to be mounted lower to once again make it easier for firefighters to remove them. It also has assisted personnel in removing equipment stored in the cab area. The busy side of the apparatus crew cab is the curb side, which is where crews store the bulk of the ALS equipment and forcible entry tools. This lowered floor height in the crew area allows for all this equipment to be mounted just inside the doors, permitting firefighters to reach in the cab while standing on the ground and retrieve all the equipment without having to climb in and out of the cab. And by being on the curb side, it does not unnecessarily subject any firefighter to the street side of the apparatus and traffic, hopefully reducing the time firefighters are in this danger area.
With the reduced body size, the operational group made careful decisions on what needs to be carried on the apparatus. In this organization, the jobs of each type of apparatus are clearly defined by general orders. Engine companies lay supply lines, pull attack lines, and put water on the fire. Trucks and squads support the fireground with searches, ladders, ventilation, and other support duties. So, the need for large amounts of compartment space to carry a ton of equipment to accomplish many jobs is not required on these engines. The basic equipment needed to support the department’s mission is carried on each engine.
To address the uniqueness of each engine’s response area, the department left one compartment on each rig untouched. This compartment is left so the station captain can decide what equipment needs to be in the compartment for its response area. Some of the equipment that has been placed in these compartments includes circular saws to assist with gates and fences, Metro equipment for mass transit incidents, extra high-rise equipment, and spare emergency medical service equipment.
Overall, the task was to make compact, maneuverable, dependable, and capable fire apparatus that meet the operational needs of the Prince George’s response area. The design of these rigs has accomplished this for the department. But, that does not mean that personnel will not be looking for the next best option or design on the department’s next order. Always refining and evaluating all aspects of your apparatus is crucial to having the best rigs possible.
Enough cannot be said about the combined effort of all parties involved in these purchases and designs. The understanding of the county government to support the department financially is huge. Without its support, the delivery of mission critical services would be severely hampered. The staff hours it takes to ensure timely payment by civilian staff and Support Service Command to the manufacturer is critical to guarantee a quick delivery time. The employee apparatus group that listens to all firefighters who ride the rigs and provides suggestions and ideas to make the apparatus better every time the department orders a rig is crucial to getting the best product to provide the personnel on the streets each day. All these groups working together make the best rigs that the citizens of Prince George’s County deserve and are ready to serve them every day.
RICKY RILEY is the president of Traditions Training, LLC. He previously served as the operations chief for Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He currently serves as a firefighter with the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He also is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.