BY ALAN M. PETRILLO
Rescue trucks have long been called “rolling toolboxes” because of their ability to house large amounts of equipment and specialized tools.
Apparatus manufacturers have gone to great lengths in their efforts to provide storage solutions for fire departments that have special, and sometimes unusual, needs in housing the equipment they want their rescues to carry.
Bill Proft, rescue program director for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says Pierce has overall standard compartment body sizes for its rescues, but they can be modified if necessary. “Over the rear wheel compartments are their own breed with special dimensions,” Proft observes, “while the other body compartments usually are in foot increments, like 36 inches, 48 inches, and 60 inches wide. You can mix them up and get different body sizes. The two main compartment sizes behind the rear wheels are 48 and 60 inches wide, with any combination of the three sizes ahead of the rear axle.”
Proft says that on a walk-around rescue truck, Pierce can install transverse compartments over the rear axle and also in the truck’s last compartment on the side. “We respond to the particular needs of the department, whether it be adjustable shelves or slide-out trays, drop-down trays, pull-out tool boards, or specialized storage racks,” he points out. “We built racks for ladders and pike poles, inflatable air bags, Stokes baskets, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) packs and bottles, oil dry hoppers, and all sorts of other equipment.”
Mike Mildner, rescue sales specialist for E-ONE, says E-ONE built a heavy rescue truck on a single rear axle with an aluminum body for the Monroe Township (NJ) Fire Department that has a six-bottle cascade system concealed under the truck’s upper walkway floor between the roll-up door mechanisms on each side of the truck. “Boxed under the floor are two three-packs of air bottles,” Mildner says. “Over the area were support members and bolt-on panels to support the walkway. This solution allowed us to use the dead space behind the door drums and not lose any compartment space elsewhere.”
Mildner notes that the area where the department deploys is along the New Jersey Turnpike. “Instead of a ladder up the back of the rescue, the truck has a climb staircase on the curb side of the truck like an aerial has,” he says. “That allowed us to give them a 128-inch-deep B1 compartment with a SlideMaster tray that has an offset tool board on it for both long and short lengths of timber and cribbing, as well as jacks and lighting on upper shelving.”
Kevin Arnold, rescue products manager for Ferrara Fire Apparatus, says Ferrara built a combination walk-in heavy rescue for the Old Mystic (CT) Fire Department on a tandem-rear-axle chassis with a two-door cab. “The front portion of the walk-in is a command area that accommodates two firefighters, and then the SCBA seats are strung out along one wall,” Arnold says, “with Stokes storage and emergency medical services (EMS) bags in open compartments secured with cargo netting.”
Arnold says that in the 60-inch-wide L6 compartment on the Old Mystic rescue, Ferrara installed a HURST hosed hydraulic rescue tool system and also a PolyAmerica mount to hold the department’s five HURST eDRAULIC tools. “The eDRAULIC tools each stand in their own mount, and there’s a pin at the base of the mount to allow the tool to pivot forward so the firefighter can walk away with it,” he says.
John Borovies, sales application specialist for KME, says KME gets requests from fire departments for enclosed ground ladder complements on rescues. “We’ll put them in a compartment in the upper rear portion of the body that is angled up from the rear and runs alongside the roll-up doors,” Borovies says. “The compartment doesn’t impede any transverse compartment at the front of the body, is easily accessible from the rear of the truck, and achieves a good use of dead space.”
4 GUYS FIRE TRUCKS
Mark Brenneman, assistant sales manager for 4 Guys Fire Trucks, says rarely does 4 Guys lay out compartments the same way on different rescues. “Usually the fire department has ideas about where they want their equipment stored and sometimes how they want it stored, so we do our best to match their expectations,” Brenneman says. He cites a walk-in rescue set up for six firefighters on a tandem-rear-axle chassis that 4 Guys built for the Melrose (NY) Fire Department as an example of customizing storage space. “There’s a toolbox in the R1 compartment, air bags in R2, a cord reel and saws on a slide-out in R3, four-bottle storage over the rear wheels, cribbing and jacks in R5, and hosed hydraulic and battery tools in R6,” he says.
On the left side of the Melrose rescue, Brenneman notes, “Speedi-Dry is in L1, hazmat equipment and the light tower controls in L2, two Honda portable generators in L3, saws in L4, a Stokes basket in L5, and technical rescue and water rescue equipment in L6. The compartments over the rear wheels have roll-up doors, while all the rest are hinged. In the back, under the walk-in’s bench seat, is enclosed storage for a roof ladder, two-section extension ladder, attic ladder, and pike poles.”
SUMMIT FIRE APPARATUS
Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says Summit has great flexibility in building a truck body, building its compartments in one-inch increments to be able to satisfy almost any request from a fire department. “We have built ramps into compartments, both attached and detached,” Messmer notes. “We make them from aluminum with a raised punch for a good gripping surface and will either hinge them down from the compartment floor or fix them with pins so the ramp can be detached. Ramps are especially useful for large ventilation fans; SCBA carts; and other large, heavy equipment.”
Messmer points out that Summit’s use of a drop frame on its rescue trucks allows it to make compartments deeper. “Because we use a drop frame, we can make compartments 40 inches deep instead of the typical 26 inches,” he says. “We are able to go all the way in to the driveline tunnel, and those deeper compartments are so huge there’s essentially no restriction on what you can store in them. They are particularly useful for tool boards that can carry long-handled tools up to 70 inches long.”
Dwayne Woodard, eastern regional salesperson for SVI Trucks, says electrical needs on rescue trucks are a big issue—from scene lighting to light towers to electric cord reels and charging outlets. “Many departments are going with a power takeoff (PTO) generator instead of a hydraulic generator these days, because with a PTO, when the truck is running every outlet is hot,” Woodard says, “and when the truck is in station, shore power charges all the equipment. And as far as outlets go, we are able to put outlets in every compartment, especially considering all the rechargeable batteries and equipment you find on rescues these days.”
SVI also has built enclosed ladder compartments on rescues that are accessed from the rear of the vehicle, and Woodard points out that some departments use that compartment space to store long timbers instead of ladders. Tool boards are also popular on rescues, he adds, noting that SVI installs swing-out tool boards that mount equipment on both the front and back of the board and also on the rear wall of the compartment.
Ben Bregg, sales engineer for Spencer Manufacturing Inc., says Spencer has built several multiuse vehicles on Ford F-550 chassis with copolymer bodies incorporating 275-gallon water tanks that allow the option of three transverse compartments. On full-size rescue trucks, he says some departments are requesting full-width covered trays with electrical outlets in extended front bumpers to carry battery-operated hydraulic rescue tools, while others choose to have the tools mounted vertically on an indexed turntable on a pull-out tray in a large side compartment.
Bill Doebler, vice president of sales for HME Ahrens-Fox, says the company has been seeing an increased demand for walk-around rescue trucks that include a command cab allowing for communications, a command area, and rehab area as well as unique storage solutions. He notes that HME Ahrens-Fox makes the majority of the items that go into such trucks, like custom desks and chairs, overhead locking cabinetry, refrigerated storage solutions, and telecommunications racks. “Tight packaging of a department’s equipment and tools has become paramount in the design process of rescues,” he says.
Mike Adams, vice president of Ziamatic Corp., says his company makes a wide array of mounts that are used in rescue trucks, including extrication tool holders, saw blade holders, chain saw mounts, electrical cord holders, rope equipment holders, and secure mounts for many types of hand tools. “We developed a Lazy-Susan-style turntable mount for hydraulic rescue tools,” Adams says, “that is indexed to turn 90 degrees and is stored low in a compartment on a slide-out tray because the tools are heavy. It’s manually operated and holds the tools in a vertical position.”
Phil McLean of Sensible Products Inc. says that because compartment space is precious on a fire truck, “every bit of cubic feet of space has to be used—the rear walls, the side walls, and the bottoms of the compartments. We want to utilize all the space possible, especially those areas that are considered dead space.” He points out that planning for equipment mounting and storage is very important when a departments specs a rescue truck. “You want the truck to be user-friendly, to have ease of use and accessibility,” he says.
McLean says first he reviews what a department wants to carry on the truck, and they evaluate if the equipment is actually needed. Once they get a good plan in place, the Sensible Products shop uses as many off-the-shelf components it has as possible to make the truck user-friendly. “Sometimes that can’t be done,” he notes, “and we have to fabricate a specialized mount to make the equipment fit in the right spot. We find we’re doing a little more of that these days.”
Thomas Trzepacz, fire industry salesman for Performance Advantage Co. (PAC), says his company “has a vast array of tool mountings that can be used on rescue trucks, like our popular Handlelok and Jumbolok brackets. The Handlelok will take any type of hand tool, while the Jumbolok is for hydraulic rescue tools.” Trzepacz says in the past year, PAC has introduced a new line of liquid containers, the Cylinder and Container Mount family, to secure premix gasoline, aerosol cans, and quarts of oil.
PAC also makes a vent saw kit that secures a strap over a chain saw guard, a universal saw kit that fits K12 or K30 rescue saws, and a mount for Sawzall saws. For rescues with air cascade systems, PAC makes the Cylinder Mate, a positive locking 9G-certified bracket, Trzepacz says.
OnScene Solutions recently introduced its new X30 Cargo Lift system that can lower heavy equipment with the push of a button, according to Clay Horst, OnScene Solutions general manager. Horst says the unit has a 500-pound capacity and offers 36 inches of downward travel.
OnScene Solutions also makes several series of cargo slides in both single- and dual-direction models, as well as a narrow-design model. The 81 series slide extends 100 percent and has a 1,000-pound rating, the 83 series slide has the same capacity with a 70 percent extension, the 84 series slide tilts down at a 30-degree access angle and can carry 250 pounds, the 85 series is narrow at 11.375 inches wide and designed for tall and slim compartments, and the 86 series slide is a low-profile unit with 100 percent extension and a 600-pound capacity.
Dennis Summers, co-owner of Fire and Marine Inc., says his company prefers to bolt dividers into rescue truck compartments instead of welding them. “We want them to be able to change if necessary because the compartments on these trucks are designed to last 30 years,” Summers says. He points out that when mounting vertical tool boards, “we like to extend them to their full height inside the compartment so as not to waste the upper four inches, as is typical. And, everyone wants hard buckets for oil dry, but we recommend collapsible buckets that don’t take up much room.”
Summers says his company has built a turntable that fits into a 24- × 24-inch footprint that can hold up to nine hydraulic rescue tools. “We also make a swing-out tool board that when you swing out the second board, it pulls out the back wall about five inches, so the tools are easier to reach.” He adds that his company “uses a lot of Ziamatic, PAC, and Sensible Products brackets. It all has to do with what fits and works best for that type of mounting.”
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.