By Alan M. Petrillo
This is a tale of two tankers—actually two pumper-tankers, to be precise.
The Boothsville Volunteer Fire Department, in Marion County, West Virginia, and the Newton Volunteer Fire Department, in Roane County, each needed to replace a tanker at approximately the same time and went to bid on specs that were very similar. When the bids at each firehouse were awarded, Summit Fire Apparatus had taken the prize for both.
Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says the tankers that Summit built for the two departments were very similar—with the big difference being the pumps on each of the rigs. “The orders came in at roughly the same time, and we discussed with the departments about doing exactly the same vehicle for both of them in order to save some money, but that did not come to fruition,” Messmer says. “The departments decided on different types of pumps for each of their vehicles, Boothsville choosing a traditional Hale 750-gallon-per-minute (gpm) power takeoff (PTO) midship pump with cross lays on top of it, and Newton going with a Hale Sidekick 750-gpm frame-mounted pump, which shortened up the overall length of their pumper-tanker.”
Each vehicle is built on a Freightliner M2 chassis, is powered by a Cummins 350-horsepower diesel engine, carries an 1,800-gallon water tank, and a 2,500-gallon portable water tank in a manual fold-down rack.
Another big difference between the two pumper-tankers is the departmental colors. Newton’s vehicle is traditional red, while Boothsville’s pumper-tanker is baby blue with a white top.
Raymond Knight, Boothsville’s chief, says the baby blue color for his department’s fire trucks goes back to 1981. “It started out almost as a joke when we were discussing colors,” Knight says, “but we stuck with the baby blue color over the years with the exception of a red engine we purchased used. It would have cost $15,000 to repaint it, but we decided that color doesn’t put out the fire, and we were able to buy a lot of equipment for that money.”
Knight says Boothsville’s pumper-tanker has a hosebed that’s currently carrying 800 feet of three-inch supply line, although it’s set up to hold more hose. Newton’s pumper-tanker has a similar hosebed.
Although many of the features on the vehicles are the same, such as Whelen 810 series halogen scene lights on each side of the bodies and Whelen 600 Super LED warning lights, the transmissions on each rig are different.
Messmer says that Boothsville’s pumper-tanker has an Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmission, but Newton’s rig carries an Eaton Eight—a 10-speed manual transmission that Messmer calls “extremely popular with truck drivers.” He says that once a driver gets the vehicle going using the clutch, he can shift between gears without using the clutch if he is moving at the proper speed for each shift. “The Eaton transmission was a challenge because the PTO port came off the bottom of the transmission, so we had to make a transfer case in order to be able to operate the PTO pump.”
Tony Johnson, owner of Dill’s Fire and Safety Equipment, whose company sold the pumper-tankers to the two departments, says he was directly involved in the Boothsville contract. “They had a lot of specific needs, but wanted to keep the price down,” he says. “Also, having only two large compartments wouldn’t work for them, so they ended up with four compartments where we added compartmentation behind the wheels in the L2 and R2 area.”
Dill’s Fire and Safety is celebrating its 50th year in business in 2015, Johnson adds.
Overall length on the Boothsville pumper-tanker is 28 feet, five inches; overall height is nine feet, seven inches; and the wheelbase is 209 inches. Newton’s pumper-tanker is shorter with an overall length of 27 feet, two inches; an overall height of nine feet, seven inches; and a wheelbase of 191 inches. Each of the vehicles cost $250,000.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist 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