The Tucson (AZ) Fire Department staffs 22 fire stations 24/7 with paid, full-time firefighters providing fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services (EMS) to a population of 520,116 in a city of 240 square miles in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The department runs 22 Type 1 engines, eight ladder companies of which three are quints, four ladder tenders, one water tender (tanker), two hazmat trucks, one technical rescue truck, a rehab rig, two rapid-response team trucks for disaster response, a mass casualty response truck, and four Type 6 wildland trucks.
The department received a recommendation from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) noting that Tucson Fire should have at least one and preferably two Type 3 engines in its fleet, based on the area’s terrain and wildland fire loading. Paul Moore, Tucson Fire’s deputy chief of logistics, says that as an all-hazards fire department, Tucson wanted to expand its wildland firefighting capability and followed up on NWCG’s recommendation of purchasing a Type 3 rig. “The Type 3 is the best suited for wildland urban interface firefighting, which is what we have here,” Moore notes. “We also have four Type 6 engines in our fleet, two of which are staffed 24/7 and two not staffed.”
Chris Callies, Southwest sales manager for Hughes Fire Equipment, who sold the Type 3 engine to Tucson, says the department has been a Pierce Manufacturing fleet customer for a number of years. “They approached us last year and told us they needed to bolster their wildland firefighting capability and wanted to see what we had available in a Type 3 engine,” Callies says. “We had a Pierce FX3 Type 3 stock unit on hand, so they took the time to go over the rig, liked what they saw, and purchased it.”
The Pierce FX3 Type 3 engine is built on a Freightliner M2-104 4×4 commercial chassis and four-door cab with seating for five firefighters, Callies points out. Wheelbase on the Type 3 is 177 inches, and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 35,000 pounds. The rig has a Darley JMP500 500-gallons-per-minute (gpm) two-stage PTO (power takeoff) drive midship pump, a Darley 1-1/2-AGE 150-gpm hydraulic PTO pump for pump-and-roll operations, a Husky 3 single agent foam system, a 500-gallon water tank, and a 20-gallon foam tank.
The Type 3 has a 16-inch front bumper extension with two trays each holding 150 feet of 1-1/2-inch hose, one 2-1/2-inch, and one 1-1/2-inch discharge on the left side, one 1-1/2-inch outlet on the right side, and one 2-1/2-inch and one 1-1/2-inch discharge at the rear. The rig also has an electric booster reel holding 150 feet of one-inch hose. Lighting on Tucson’s Type 3 includes a Whelen LED Justice light bar, Whelen MC LED scene lighting.
Chris Jurvig, Tucson’s fire resource captain for wildland logistics, says that the Type 3 was received October 2020, and that 18 Tucson firefighters are red-card qualified to staff it. “Besides our newly-staffed Type 3, we have four Type 6 wildland engines,” Jurvig points out. “Two of them are staffed by crews where they are stationed, who, in the absence of a wildland fire, staff other apparatus. Two of our Type 6s are unstaffed but can be stood up as needed.”
K.P. Maxwell, a Tucson Fire engineer and wildland coordinator, says Tucson Fire completed training and qualifications on the Type 3 and put it in service in April of this year. “Our first deployment in Arizona with the Type 3 was to the Backbone Fire near Pine, Ariz., that burned 40,855 acres,” Maxwell says. “But we’ve been deployed to other Arizona fires, like the Walnut Fire at Texas Canyon in Cochise County which burned 10,667 acres, where we operated with a Type 1 engine. Our wildland-trained firefighters have also deployed with other local departments, notably Northwest Fire District and Golder Ranch Fire District, to fires in Arizona, Colorado, and southern California. We have a very good working relationship with those departments, as well as with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.”
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.