“Auxiliary Power Units Making Inroads on Fire Apparatus” by Alan M. Petrillo (June 2014) was a very nice article, and these units can certainly be a wonderful addition to a piece of equipment. I have a couple of points of clarification on the topic.
First, main engine idling, which would generate added wear and tear, would actually result in the need to service or rebuild the engine more frequently-not just a need for more frequent maintenance. Taking those big engines apart costs a lot of money.
Second, the actual diesel fuel usage for an 8-kW genset is actually one quart when idling, two quarts at half load, and four quarts at full load. So, there is not a full gallon savings per hour over the main engine-which would need around 1¼ gallons idling-unless one would be just idling the little engine as well, which of course does not make any sense. There would be no need to operate it at all.
SITTING AND DREAMING
One of the best things about being an engineer is that you can sit and dream for days and honestly say you were working. Engineers do love to solve problems, and a lot of that involves sitting and dreaming of solutions. But, the best solutions always come from engineers who thoroughly understand the problem. That is where the fire service needs to engage manufacturers more aggressively. We need to reach out to the radio guys and show them just how hard it is to operate a portable with gloves and an SCBA. But, we also need to be wary of over-engineered solutions that don’t address the root cause of a problem. A wireless GPS accountability turnout coat that simultaneously monitors firefighters vital signs is of no use to an overweight crew who doesn’t know what a left hand search pattern is. Likewise, an apparatus covered with chevrons and flashing lights is of no use when a motorist is looking at his smartphone instead of the road. Perhaps some of the problems we need to solve have roots that lie far below the fire service. In any case, I will continue sitting and dreaming and enjoying your editorials.
McKinley Fire Company, Elkins Park, Pennsylvnia