The Abiquiu (NM) Volunteer Fire Department has a fire district with a diverse geography, including a river running through it, soft sand areas of 200 to 600 feet in elevation, and a lot of territory that’s rural, broken mesa, high desert with elevations up to 8,000 feet. Abiquiu was running a KME pumper-tender (tanker) with a 2,000-gallons-per-minute (gpm) pump and 2,000-gallon water tank on a single rear axle, but the rig was 25 years old and had a tendency to get stuck in soft sand.
David Klein, Abiquiu’s chief, says, “We knew we needed to get a new engine so we started to look at wildland urban interface (WUI) engines, first those made by KME, then Rosenbauer, and finally HME Ahrens-Fox. We were able to try out an HME Ahrens-Fox WUI pumper in California and found the maneuverability to be amazing, especially with its great turning radius and the Super Singles wheels and tires that seem to float through sand. We received award money from our state legislature and also a loan from the state finance authority, so we were able to purchase an HME Ahrens-Fox WUI engine.”
The rig that Abiquiu purchased, says Jeff Wood, owner of Firefighter Trucks Inc., who sold the WUI pumper to Abiquiu, is built on an HME Ahrens-Fox SFO-MFD chassis and cab, powered by a Cummins B6.7-liter 360-horsepower (hp) diesel engine, and an Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmission. Wood says the pumper has a Hale RSD 1,500-gpm pump, a Darley 150-gpm 1-1/2AGE auxiliary pump for pump and roll, a UPF Poly 700-gallon water tank, a 30-gallon foam cell, an Ahrens-Fox Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) with a Vannair compressor, and an Ahrens-Fox Distributed Water Flow system.
“The chief had seen one of our WUI engines on the HME Ahrens-Fox website and came to us and told us he wanted a truck like that only with a 700-gallon water tank instead of the usual 500-gallon tank,” Wood points out. “They had to carry their water long distances, so they wanted to get as much mileage as possible out of it. And because of the sandy soil, hills, and canyons in their district, they had to have four-wheel drive on the vehicle.”
Wood notes that the Abiquiu WUI pumper doesn’t have a typical pump house because of the Distributed Water Flow system. “It’s all electronics in the L1 compartment,” he says. “There’s a glass screen there, and the discharges are placed all around the truck. There are two 2-1/2-inch discharges on the left side, two 1-3/4-inch speedlays in the center, a 1-3/4-inch jump line in the front bumper, a Task Force Tips bumper turret on the front bumper that can flow foam, and two 2-1/2-inch rear discharges.”
Klein points out that Abiquiu wanted the HME Ahrens-Fox electronic touch screen pump controls for several reasons. “One of them was the space that it saves on the vehicle,” Klein says. “There’s an unbelievable amount of space on this pumper for its size. Another reason is that we’re an all-volunteer department, so getting people who want to run pumps can be difficult. But everyone has an iPad or touchscreen Smartphone, so it’s easy to teach them how to pump the vehicle. I printed out a card with six steps of how to get water from the new WUI pumper, and members who had never used a pump before had water flowing in minutes. One inexperienced female firefighter had it flowing in 45 seconds.”
Klein noted that the vehicle’s short wheelbase, only 162 inches, and it’s clean, flat roof design, allow the rig to get into places that a larger pumper could not. “At the river, there are a lot of old cottonwoods and low limbs, so it’s easier to maneuver our pumper with a flat roof,” he says. “We had the air conditioning condenser moved from the top of the truck to the dunnage area, and that clean roof line really works well for us. Also, the short wheelbase and high clearance means we’re able to get into places that were difficult for us before.”
Abiquiu has its WUI pumper set up for four firefighters, with three of them in SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) seats. “There is no gasoline-powered equipment on this vehicle,” Klein adds. “We have a 12-volt light tower, and all battery-powered equipment, including our hydraulic rescue tools, positive pressure ventilation (PPV) fans, and K12 saws.”
Wood points out that the vehicle has a stainless-steel body that’s bolted instead of welded. “Also, the booster tank is bolted to a cradle on the frame,” he says, “so it’s not part of the body structure which allows the body to flex around the water tank, which is very important in the rough terrain that Abiquiu often encounters.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Ariz.-based journalist, the author of three novels and five non-fiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including the position of chief.