BY BILL ADAMS
Some articles describing new apparatus deliveries subtly endorse apparatus and component part manufacturers when elaborating on the features of the new rig.
Differences between the new piece and its predecessor are occasionally explained. Often there’s a brief description of the rest of the department’s apparatus. Seldom discussed are the inner workings of the fire department and the fireground rationale for purchasing. Rarely featured, if ever, is when a department purchases the same thing over and over.
Clifton, New York’s, No. 12 engine was observed at a local equipment show. Noticing a simple and somewhat different but functional layout led to a trip to the Clifton fire station to learn more. Two other engines were in the barn that were virtually identical in design and layout. The oldest, lettered No. 7 and purchased in 1998, was for sale because it was replaced by the new rig. The other, a 2010 model lettered No. 10, was in service. Except for the cab and chassis on the new rig, all three look similar. There had to be a reason why three rigs purchased over the span of 21 years were virtually the same. In reality, the department actually made improvements with each purchase while keeping the overall design.
THE TOWN OF CHILI
Outside Rochester in western New York, the town of Chili encompasses about 40 square miles with a population of around 30,000 inhabitants (Chili is not pronounced the same as the country or the food. It is pronounced “chai-lie” rhyming with the drink Mai-Tai). Fire protection is provided by two volunteer departments. The Chili Fire Department, Inc., is a 100-member, four-station volunteer organization. The Clifton Fire Department, Inc., is a one-station entity with about three dozen members. A map issued by the Monroe County Fire Bureau with fire districts and fire station locations in the county shows the Clifton Fire Protection District covering about a third of the town of Chili in its southernmost part as well as a very small portion of the neighboring town of Riga. It is estimated to protect about 10 percent of the town’s population.
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- Apparatus Purchasing: Revisiting Purchasing Specifications
A fire protection district in New York is not a tax-levying political subdivision like a town, city, or village. Paraphrasing state law, it is an assessment area within a town established for the sole purpose of providing fire protection by contract. It can contract with a political subdivision or an incorporated independent fire company similar to the Clifton Fire Department, Inc.
1 A six-seat Spartan Gladiator cab with a 450-horsepower motor was specified for the 2019 purchase. The apparatus body design originated with a 1993 purchase and has been modified as needed for later purchases. The No. 12 designation means it is the 12th piece of apparatus the department has purchased. The four number designation is a countywide numbering system denoting the battalion, department, station, and type of apparatus (i.e., engine, ladder, etc.). The hose reels are moved to the very edge of the body. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted.)
2, 3 The 1998 and 2010 apparatus. Telescoping flood lights provided on the 1998 rig were replaced by a light tower in 2010. A deck gun on the 2010 model was discontinued in 2019. (Photos 2-3 courtesy of Frank Riccobono, Firehouse Fire Apparatus.)
4 This rear view of No. 12 shows the low-mounted dual 2½-inch direct tank fills and 4-inch rear suction. The small open compartment on the right side is just deep enough to accommodate a floating strainer. A permanent corner step in the upper left corner was replaced by a fold-down step that, when in the up position, allows more secure footing when reloading hose. Beneath the nested ladders is a small walkway to facilitate hose loading.
5 The pump operator’s panel controls are not all “squished” together. The hose reels have been extended outward above the pump panels so they are almost level with the body sides. This allows the light tower to nest between them (photo 6). It is also noticeable in photo 1.
6 Just visible behind the hose reel is the light tower in its nested position.
THE HAMLET OF CLIFTON
In New York State, a hamlet is an unincorporated community or geographical location not necessarily having defined borders. Established in the very early 1800s, Clifton was once a thriving crossroads community featuring grist and saw mills, a distillery, a tavern, a cemetery, a church, a school, and in the late 1800s a post office. In 1932, the Clifton Fire Department was established and operated as one of the companies in the Chili Fire Department. However, in 1934, it became incorporated and chartered in 1935 as its own entity. The actual hamlet as a business community has disappeared. Today, the church, cemetery, and fire department remain. Even the post office moved out in the 1980s.
Asked to describe today’s fire protection district, one resident replied: “You can’t buy anything in Clifton. There’re no stores or gas stations. There isn’t even a stoplight or a flashing yellow caution light. The only commercial businesses are three golf courses, a few landscaping companies, and the farms. The majority of the farmland is rented out. The owners are either retired or not local, but the land is so good there’s always someone wanting to work it. There hasn’t been a new home constructed in some areas in 20 to 25 years. The farmland has stayed with the homes just changing occupants. There is one exception, and that’s a single housing track. Any new home built outside the hamlet and not in the one existing track would fall under the RA-1 zoning requirement.” Chili’s 2016 zoning map shows the Clifton Fire Protection District zoned rural agricultural with a very small portion designated RA-1, requiring a minimum one-acre lot. As water mains and sewers are extended, more residential development is expected. Industrial and commercial rezoning is not.
|Modifications Made for the 2019 Purchase|
* Spartan chassis specified because of the unavailability of the previous manufacturer’s chassis.
* Motor size increased from 370 to 450 horsepower.
* Pump pressure governor specified in lieu of relief valve.
* Light tower moved from top of the cab to the front of the hosebed and dunnage area between hose reels.
* Eliminated the prepiped deck gun.
* Stationary step on the upper rear left side to access the hosebed changed to flip-down type.
* Door opening on the compartments behind the rear wheels on each side were made one inch wider.
* Warning lights changed to LED.
* Body-mounted 110-volt AC LED scene lights changed to 12-volt LED.
* Increased the sizes of the ground ladder complement to 28/16.
Frank A. Riccobono, regional sales representative for Firehouse Apparatus Inc., the local 4 Guys dealer, says both the 2019 and 2010 rigs have the same 209-inch wheelbase, and the 2019 unit is ¾-inch longer in overall length. He adds, “Despite a different chassis manufacturer, we were able to almost duplicate their last unit. Being a true custom builder, we were able to work around any differences between the two chassis manufacturers and still give the customer what they wanted.”
CLIFTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
Since 2004, the Clifton Fire Department has operated two engines, a light rescue truck, and a grass fire truck under the current leadership of Chief Tom Harper and President George Emens. About 160 alarms per year are answered, with two-thirds being emergency-medical-service-related. There might be one or two working fires per year. The district is now about 85 percent hydranted. Prior to 2004, Clifton ran with two engines and two tankers (tenders). The last tanker was replaced by an engine in 1993.
The department has an independent corporation contract yearly with the towns of Chili and Riga to provide fire protection in designated areas. Three fundraiser activities, donations, and a fund drive provide the balance of its income.
The district is divided into four quadrants, with automatic mutual assistance agreements with neighboring departments that are specific to the hazards in each quadrant. Some responses are for daytime only, and some are 24/7/365. Harper says, “Like many departments, we request automatic aid for various reasons. The first example of this is equipment-based. On structural calls, we automatically request an aerial device from our neighboring departments. This is a resource we are unable to provide in-house. Another example is manpower. Depending on factors such as the time of day and call type, manpower may be light. Over the years, we have narrowed down areas that have the potential need for additional manpower and requested automatic aid from our neighboring departments.”
7 A rear view of the 2010 engine. The upper arrow shows the right-hand hosebed side sheet was moved inward, enabling the ladders to rest lower. The middle arrow shows the lower of two full-width unistruts allowing reel adjustment or adding a reel in the future. The lower arrow shows the low “flexible” auxiliary step. (Photo courtesy of Frank Riccobono.)
8 The arrow shows the backboard storage compartment. Below the arrow is an auxiliary controller for the 4-inch LDH discharge. To the left are double-hinged pump panel access doors.
9, 10 Slightly moving the ladder rack enables it to serve as a fall preventer for a full-length albeit narrow walkway to facilitate hose loading.
11 The compartment on the road side ahead of rear wheels.
12 The compartment on the road side above rear wheels.
MEMBERSHIP AND STAFFING
Emens says, “Membership has fallen from around 40-plus members to our current average. What has changed is the number of active members who can respond. Like many departments, the average age of our members is increasing. Younger people are not coming forward to volunteer. We currently have 35 members. There are 23 active members who can respond to calls. We do not have social members.” (The underlining is mine to illustrate what many volunteer departments are facing and what apparatus purchasing should reflect.) Harper emphasizes that Clifton’s apparatus design criteria are to ensure safe and efficient use with available staffing.
Emens continues, “We do not have formal recruitment and retention programs but do participate is a statewide program called ‘Recruit New York.’ We actively solicit members in our fund drive mailings, annual open house during fire prevention week, and during any interaction with the fire district residents. We try and create a family-friendly atmosphere that our members want to be part of.”
APPARATUS PURCHASING COMMITTEE (AKA TRUCK COMMITTEE)
Emens says, “For many years, our department’s philosophy has been that on all major projects—new firehouse, new truck, building addition, etc.—the committee is open to every member. This allows our members, if they choose, ownership in their department. Most times committees start out large and then, shortly thereafter into the process, the ones who are willing to make the complete commitment continue. This has worked well for our department.
“The truck committee has had many of the same members since our truck from 1993. Of course, the members have changed slightly each time, but the core moves forward each time. During the process, the department members are updated on the committee’s progress. Any department member can come to a committee meeting but with the understanding we are moving only forward. Input is important from the chief on down to the member riding the jump seat. The members who respond on the truck know what is needed.” I believe Emen’s last statement is a key element of apparatus purchasing.
13 The compartment on the road side above rear wheels with a swing-out tool board in the open position.
14 The compartment on the road side behind rear wheels. A drop-down door protects six spare SCBA bottles. A portable electric winch is on the right side of the floor-mounted tray. Heavy equipment is mounted low.
15 The compartment on the right side ahead of rear wheels.
16 The compartment on the right side above rear wheels.
17 The compartment on the right side behind the rear wheels holds auto extrication equipment.
18 The rear step compartments.
19, 20 The dual hinged doors and hinged gauge panel opened to access the top of the pump house.
CLIFTON NO. 12
Clifton’s latest purchase is a 2019 4 Guys 1,750-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pumper on a Spartan Gladiator chassis with a 209-inch wheelbase and 20,000-pound front and 31,000-pound rear gross axle ratings. Booster tank capacity is 1,220 gallons of water with a 20-gallon integral foam tank. A square-back-design stainless steel body has high side compartments on each side with hinged doors. An overhead ladder rack carries a 28-foot two-section extension and a 16-foot roof ladder plus three pike poles. A 10-kW hydraulic generator and a light tower are provided. The rig is 33 feet 4¼ inches long and less than 9 feet 11 inches tall.
There are seven 2½-inch discharges—three on the left side, two on the right side, and two piped to the front right side of the main hosebed for preconnects. One 3-inch discharge is piped to the right side to a 4-inch Storz fitting. It has an onboard foam system. Two 2½-inch gated inlets are on each side, and a 4-inch gated suction is at the rear. Two direct 2½-inch tank fills are also at the rear.
Two electric rewind hose reels above the midship pump house carry 400 feet of 1¾-inch hose each. The reels are not piped. The main hosebed has a capacity of 1,500 feet of 4-inch large-diameter hose (LDH) plus two 250-foot capacity beds used to preconnect 200 feet of 2½-inch each.
Past Chief Brian Koster states that the 2019, 2010, and 1998 like body designs originated with a 1993 4 Guys rig mounted on a commercial cab and chassis. He said the original design worked well for the department, and the design was tweaked with each subsequent purchase.
Harper adds, “The 1998 engine was our last engine with a 1,250-gpm pump capacity. The 2010 engine was originally spec’d with a 1,250-gpm pump capacity. After considering the minimal cost and changes to upgrade the pump to 1,750 gpm, it was decided to move forward with the upgrade. When the time came to spec our latest truck, many of the previous specs were used in its design. Clifton’s use of Class A foam began with the building of our brush truck in 2005. We expanded the concept into the 2010 purchase and continued to provide this option with the newest engine.”
Unless specifically noted, the reasonings given below for individual features are my personal conjecture based on viewing the apparatus. I am not speaking for the fire department or passing judgment on its apparatus. Its design has and is working well for them, and it might work well for other purchasers.
- The second 200-foot 2½-inch preconnect in the main hosebed has an open male butt, allowing lengths to be deployed for use elsewhere without having to disconnect a nozzle or an appliance. It enables using a leader line wye, ground monitor, 2½-inch straight tip, or 2½-inch automatic nozzle as needed.
- The rear gated 4-inch LDH inlet prevents blocking a possible traffic lane if a side inlet is used.
- The powered overhead ladder rack stores ladders horizontally above the body and frees up compartment space. This is the fourth rig so equipped in Clifton. In the down position, it is designed to allow the hinged compartment doors to be fully opened. A semilowered position enables its use as a fall preventer for the hosebed walkway.
- Moving the light tower from the cab roof to the dunnage area keeps the rig’s overall height low, protecting the tower from taking a potential expensive hit from a low-hanging tree limb.
- Dry hose reels allow pulling only as much 1¾-inch hose as needed. Connecting to the side 2½-inch discharges equipped with reducers saves the cost of two 2-inch discharges, piping, controllers, and gauges. Harper agrees with Koster’s statement: “The electric reels have been proven to be the best way for us to deploy and repack an attack line with minimal manpower.”
- A 54-inch-wide pump panel allows adequate room for controls, gauges, and labels without “overcrowding.” A hidden benefit is the slide-in backboard storage compartment on the right-side pump panel.
- Dual rear 2½-inch direct tank fills allow the rig’s tank to be filled from two sources when in a nursing operation in nonhydranted areas. The tank fills and the 4-inch rear LDH inlet are all accessible from ground level.
- A low rear intermediate step uses flexible hard rubber connections that are more forgiving than a step hard-bolted to the tailboard.
- The ground monitor allows more flexibility for positioning than a prepiped deck gun.
- Two 13-foot 6-inch hard suctions are carried in lieu of three 10-foot sections.
- The electric rewind cord reel in the upper rear compartment was specified to be located to the far left side with full compartment width unistrut brackets to enable moving the reel or adding a second cord or hydraulic reel in the future.
- The compartments seem to be well laid out with numerous floor-mounted and adjustable slide-out trays, shelves, tool boards, and cubbies. Not every tool is physically mounted on the rig. The department makes good use of carrying bags, milk crates, and buckets to access and move equipment about the fireground. Heavy equipment and equipment used most often are mounted where they are accessible.
- The equipment layouts are the same on both engines with changes over the years to meet the needs within their fire protection district. Harper states, “They are designed to be operated with limited staffing in a safe and efficient manner.”
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 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.