By Alan M. Petrillo
One of the largest volunteer fire departments in the country—Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department in Louisiana—has been using the same brand of fire pump on its fire apparatus since the 1940s and has no plans to change any time soon.
These days nearly the entire fleet at the Thibodaux department, totaling 24 pieces of apparatus, according to Chief Randy Pate, carries Darley pumps. “Our apparatus use Darley pumps because we have a lot of confidence in their quality and reliability,” Pate says. “And, it helps in keeping our fleet similar with the equipment on the vehicles so there is consistency in training and maintenance.”
Robert Riviere, assistant chief, says that his family sold fire equipment in Louisiana for about 60 years under the name of Louisiana Fire Equipment Sales. “When my father, Clarence Riviere, returned from serving in World War II, he helped get the fire department here back together,” Robert Riviere says. “He was a firefighter with the department and served as director of training for a number of years. It’s before my time, but I think it was my dad who arranged to be able to sell Darley trucks in Louisiana.”
Most of the apparatus in the department was built by Central States, and then by Rosenbauer, after Rosenbauer’s purchase of Central States, Riviere notes. The department has eight pumpers, one aerial ladder, a rescue, three salvage vehicles, a command unit, an air unit, a hose tender, three chief vehicles, and a fire prevention unit operating out of nine stations. Two reserve units—an E-ONE pumper and an American LaFrance aerial ladder—are the only two pieces of apparatus in the fleet that don’t carry Darley pumps.
Two years ago the department took delivery of a Rosenbauer-built rescue truck, Pate says. At the time the truck committee was drawing up the specs, it considered a rescue-pumper concept with a Darley pump on it but in the end decided on a traditional rescue with no firefighting water on it. “The rescue has a custom cab for four people and it’s a traditional walk-around rescue with room for all the tools and equipment we need,” he points out. “The only water on the rescue is a 40-gallon fresh water tank with a small pump that we use for cleanup purposes.”
Nolan LeBlanc, owner of Bonaventure Co. Inc., the Rosenbauer dealer for Louisiana, sold the rescue to Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department. “They wanted a custom chassis with a light tower, generator, and compartments set up for extrication equipment,” LeBlanc says.
But there was an unusual item in the specs, LeBlanc says, something he had never encountered before. “The rescue is built on an HME 1871 short front overhang (SFO) chassis and carries a slide-in unit in the back that takes a 14-foot long aluminum boat,” he notes. “The department is surrounded by a lot of bayou, so instead of hauling the boat on a trailer, it keeps it on its rescue truck.”
Asked about future apparatus purchases, Pate has a quick answer. “We recently awarded Bonaventure a contract for two Rosenbauer pumpers on their new Commander chassis,” Pate says. “And, those pumpers will have Darley pumps on them.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is 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.
By Alan M. Petrillo