The Palmyra (MO) Fire Protection District is like most fire departments in middle America. It is a fully volunteer department covering a rural area but still has a commercial base.
By Bob Vaccaro
The district has the normal complement of single-family dwellings, three schools, churches, and light commercial areas. One target hazard is a BASF Anhydrous Ammonia Plant, and it protects an older downtown area as well. There is also a great deal of farmland, and the only fire hydrants it can operate with are in the downtown area. An abundance of open fields in the area present a brush fire hazard for firefighters.
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Chief Gary Crane designed a new mini-pumper for this area of concern: “We started the process of forming a truck committee to work on the specs and design of a new mini brush truck. Our older vehicle that we were replacing was a 1987 Ford mini pumper. We don’t have the luxury of replacing our vehicles every 20 years like most departments do.”
1 The Palmyra (MO) Fire Protections District’s mini pumper brush truck built by Alexis Fire Equipment on a Ford F-550 chassis. (Photos courtesy of Alexis Fire Equipment.)
2 Officer’s side showing the walkway between the cab and the body.
|Palmyra (MO) Fire Protection District|
1 station covering 200 square miles and a population of 6,700
He continues, “Our truck committee consisted of one chief, one lieutenant, and one firefighter. The planning for the vehicle took place approximately a year before we took delivery. We basically knew what we wanted. The truck would have an extended cab, a walkway behind the cab, and be lightweight to get around our various fields. It had to be very maneuverable and have better capability than our older vehicle.”
The specs were sent out to bid, with several manufacturers interested and bidding on the vehicle. In the meantime, the truck committee went to the Alexis factory open house and looked at various vehicles being built and liked the quality and workmanship. Members had also seen several Alexis vehicles on the road operated by nearby departments. The district went with Alexis for the build.
Crane says, “In the long run, Alexis was great to work with. The engineers were receptive to all our ideas and worked with us during the build. Another plus for us was that the factory was only two hours away and made it easy for our committee to travel over and view the vehicle during the build process.”
He adds, “The truck has a Darley pump, which has worked out well for us, and we added technology to make the truck safer for our firefighters. The pump has a remote start in the cab and has voice-activated wireless headsets all around, which enables us to talk to our firefighters operating in the walkway and also in close proximity to the vehicle.
3 Driver’s side with extended cab and large side compartments.
4 Rear of vehicle with rear-mount pump and flip-out hose hooks and booster reel with forestry line.
Ford F-550 4-door 4×4 DRW chassis
Ford 6.8L V10 288-horsepower (hp) gasoline engine
Ford Torqshift 6-speed automatic transmission
Heavy-duty aluminum flatbed
Two compartments, one on each side, with two lift-up doors
Two under-skid tool compartments, one on each side
N-Fab textured black stainless-steel nerf bars
Custom EMS compartment, chassis cab rear
Reese-type hitch receivers with electrical connections, rear
One Warn multi-mount 9.5 9,500-pound winch
Ranch hand legend replacement bumper with brush guard and receiver Alexis ultimate off-road wheel and tire package
Darley 2½ AGE pump with 37-hp Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine 250-gallon poly skid tank with 10-gallon foam tank
One 1½-inch discharge, rear
One 2½-inch gated suction, rear
Scotty around-the-pump foam eductor/mixer
One Hannay booster reel with 150 feet of 1-inch hose, rear
Floor-mounted console for emergency switches with map/binder storage, cab Progressive Dynamics onboard battery charger
Kussmaul Super Auto Eject 120-volt shoreline connection
Code 3 split arrow stick
Federal E-Q2B siren with two 200-watt Whelen speakers
Code 3 warning lights package
FireTech scene lights package
Diamond grade chevron striping, rear
9’ 2” overall height
23’ 4” overall length
60” cab to axle
“Hose on the vehicle is 400 feet of forestry line, which is easier to move around and operate. Also installed was a portable winch, which can be operated from the front and rear of the vehicle,” Crane says. “Another unique option we designed into the rig was two pull-out hooks on the rear of the vehicle, which flip out so we can wrap our forestry lines around if we need to move out of a fire area quickly.”
“All in all, we felt that we got our money’s worth on this vehicle,” Crane concludes. “Service after the sale was great. They have a mobile service unit, and we have had our other vehicles—even those not manufactured by them—worked on in their shop.”
It’s not always about the large order or big apparatus. Many departments can’t always afford more complex or more expensive vehicles. However, some departments, with proper planning and working with a smaller manufacturer’s engineers, can come up with problem-solving options that they can build into a smaller vehicle to operate in their response area. The Palmyra Fire Protection District is one of those proactive smaller fire departments that did just that, working with Alexis to design a highly functional, safe vehicle for its firefighters.
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.