Hillsborough County (FL) Fire Rescue, after performing its due diligence in researching the various models of hydraulic rescue tools being turned out by manufacturers, then doing a week-long evaluation of the tools from four different manufacturers, followed by two weeks of evaluation of those tools by Hillsborough County firefighters and officers, developed specs and a request for proposal and awarded a $1.2 million contract to Holmatro.
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Robert Collins, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue’s division chief of special operations, says the driving factor for the purchase of the hydraulic rescue tools was the age of the department’s then-current equipment. “We were using hydraulic rescue tools that were 14 years old,” Collins observes. “With the new metals being used in new cars, those hydraulic tools were just not getting the job done on any vehicle created in the last five years. The equipment was sound, but we needed to upgrade.”
1 Hillsborough County (FL) Fire Rescue firefighters put a Holmatro CU 4007 cutter through its paces. (Photos courtesy of Purchase Point Equipment Supply.)
2 A Hillsborough county firefighter sets up a Holmatro ram during the department’s hydraulic rescue equipment testing.
Collins says that the department’s chief officers felt it was very important to get firefighters involved in testing any equipment proposed for purchase. “We contacted four major manufacturers of extrication equipment and set up a week for them to come out here and demonstrate their tools for us,” he notes. “After a week of demonstrations, we had them leave their tools with us, and we had our heavy rescue crews, truck companies, and engine extrication teams test the tools for two weeks. All the firefighters who tested the tools filled out a survey of what they liked and didn’t like about each of the tools, and Holmatro came out on top. Then we put it out for bid, and Holmatro met the specs and the price point and won the contract.”
Hillsborough County (FL) Fire and Rescue
Strength: 1,100 paid firefighters, 43 fire stations, one rescue station.
Service area: Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue provides fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services to 1.47 million people in its 1,266-square-mile coverage area in the west central portion of Florida.
Other apparatus: 37 engines, six quints, four aerial platforms, 18 brush trucks, eight water tenders, two heavy rescue trucks, one hazardous materials truck, two air trucks, four squads, two mobile command vehicles, 33 rescue cars, one fireboat, two rescue boats, and one foam wagon. The department is expecting the delivery of one aerial platform, two engines, three rescues, and a ventilation truck this fall to place into two new stations.
Nate Schwessinger, owner of Purchase Point Equipment Supply, who sold the hydraulic rescue tools to Hillsborough County, says that his company turned the order for 51 hydraulic rescue tool systems in to Holmatro in early November 2019, and Holmatro delivered the systems to Hillsborough County by January 1, 2020. “Once the tools were delivered, we spent two weeks training the trainers, the truck companies, and the heavy rescue firefighters, and then they and the Hillsborough County training division trained the rest of the crews with us in support,” Schwessinger says.
Schwessinger notes that the Holmatro hydraulic rescue tool systems delivered include 45 systems for engines and quints, four systems for trucks, and two systems for heavy rescues. The 45 systems for engines and quints each include a battery-powered GCU 5050i EVO3 cutter, a GSP 5240 EVO3 spreader, a GRA 4321 EVO3 ram, six BPA286 6.0 Ah batteries, three BCH2 battery chargers, a 13.8-inch ram extension, and an HRS-22 NCT ram support. Two systems are set aside as reserve units.
3 Hillsborough County firefighters watch a fellow firefighter’s progress using one of Holmatro’s battery-powered hydraulic rescue tools.
4 A Hillsborough County firefighter uses a hosed Holmatro cutter on a B post.
5 The Holmatro tools get a workout from a crew of Hillsborough County firefighters.
The four systems for trucks each include an SR20PC2 three-stage duo power unit, a CU 5060i cutter, a SP 5260 spreader, an RA 4332 ram, an HRS-22 NCT ram support, CORE Technology bulkhead fittings, CORE Technology 32-foot hose and 50-foot hose sections, a battery-powered GCU 5060i EVO3 cutter, GSP 5260 EVO3 spreader, a GRA 4331 EVO3 ram, six BPA286 6.0 Ah batteries, three BCH2 battery chargers, a spreader accessory kit, and pulling chains.
The two systems for the heavy rescues each include an SR40PC4 three-stage quad power unit, a CU 5060i cutter, a CU 5040i cutter, an SP 5240 spreader, an SP 5280 spreader, a CU 4007 cutter, a TR 5370LP telescopic ram, a TR 5350LP telescopic ram, a TR 5340LP telescopic ram, two HRS-22 NCT ram supports, CORE Technology bulkhead fittings, CORE Technology 32-foot hose and 50-foot hose sections, spreader accessory kits, pulling chains, a battery-powered GCT 5114 EVO3 combi tool, two BPA286 6.0 Ah batteries, and a BCH2 charger.
Collins notes that Hillsborough County Fire Rescue typically runs four firefighters on its engines but sometimes has to go to minimum staffing of three firefighters, depending on scheduling and location. Collins says that when running with the minimum staffing of three firefighters, “Battery powered hydraulic rescue tools allow access to the scene much faster than hosed hydraulic rescue tools, which means the firefighters can make a rapid attack on the vehicle and get to any victims quicker.”
Frank Bondra, southwest regional manager for Holmatro, calls the Hillsborough County order “one of the biggest orders I’ve ever seen at Holmatro. For an order of that magnitude, we had a very good turnaround time. All our equipment is manufactured to order, and we were able to fulfill the order in eight weeks, even though it was especially busy at the end of the year when a lot of fire departments are trying to spend unused money in their budgets.”
Holmatro Rescue Tools
- 45 EVO3 battery-powered rescue systems for engines and quints, each system including a cutter, a spreader, a ram, six batteries, three battery chargers, a ram extension, and ram support.
- Four CORE Technology hosed hydraulic rescue tool systems and four EVO3 battery-powered rescue systems for aerial apparatus, including a three-stage duo power unit and hosed cutter; a spreader; a ram and battery-operated cutter, spreader, and ram; six batteries; three battery chargers; a ram extension; and ram support.
- Two CORE Technology hosed hydraulic rescue tool systems and four EVO3 battery-powered rescue systems for aerial apparatus, including a three-stage duo power unit, two hosed cutters, three spreaders, three telescopic rams, a battery-operated combi tool, two batteries, and a battery charger.
Price of 51 systems: $1.2 million
Bondra praised Hillsborough County officers and firefighters for holding “head-to-head demonstrations of various equipment, with the department controlling the testing and the timing of the tests. They really put all the equipment through its paces and gave their firefighters an opportunity to test the equipment for a couple of weeks after the demonstrations were finished.” He notes that Hillsborough County’s firefighters determined that Holmatro’s equipment “performed the best of all the tools tested. They said they liked Holmatro’s technology and being able to do things quicker with our tools and also the cost of ownership and our lifetime warranty.”
Collins notes that the Holmatro hydraulic rescue tools have been in service for months. “I have not heard any complaints,” he says. “All of the feedback from firefighters and officers has been positive. Chief Dennis Jones authorized this purchase and wanted to be sure that the end users were the ones to select the equipment because they are the ones using it in the field.”
ALAN M. PETRILLOis 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.