Apparatus Ideas: Dual-Purpose Rig Addresses Firefighting and EMS Needs

Apparatus ideas | BOB VACCARO

Numerous fire departments around the country are struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing number of emergency medical services (EMS) runs their communities are presenting to them.

It has become a great problem to balance out response to fires and EMS calls for help with limited staffing and budget concerns that many are experiencing. The South Ogden (UT) Fire Department has taken a proactive approach to deal with this dilemma.

“South Ogden starting looking into how we could better serve our population responding to EMS runs as well as fires,” states Chief Cameron West. “About three years ago, our management team got together to decide how we could improve our responses and keep our response times low. We also wanted to keep our crew continuity with one unit instead of responding with an ambulance and a piece of fire apparatus.”

The department’s response area is like many other suburban areas in the country, according to West. “We have numerous dwellings, strip shopping centers, schools, as well as a wildland area that we are responsible for protecting,” he says. “Even though our population is not large by any means, like other departments of similar size we have the daunting task of responding to a great deal of EMS runs. We were lucky in that our firefighters and officers bought into our idea of having a combined unit to be able to respond to both fires and EMS runs. Our apparatus replacement program usually is based on a 10-year program but could take longer based on our budget and finances. Ultimately, we try to save money by jumping on neighboring departments’ contracts if it suits our needs.”

South Ogden (UT) Pumper Ambulance

  • Pierce Velocity aluminum cab and body.
  • TAK-4 front suspension.
  • Waterous 1,500-gpm single-stage pump.
  • 500-gallon tank.
  • Pierce Command Zone electronics.
  • Harrison Hydra-Gen 8-kW hydraulic generator.

The unit is powered by a Detroit DD13 525-horsepower engine and an Allison transmission. Other features include a TFT Extend-a-Gun deck gun, Hannay reels, a Norcold refrigerator, a PAC TRAC tool mounting system, Kussmaul auto-eject battery and air conditioner, Whelen warning and scene lights, and a Federal Signal Q2B mechanical siren.

The South Ogden (UT) Pierce ambulance/pumper built on a Pierce Velocity chassis with aluminum cab and body. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)

1 The South Ogden (UT) Pierce ambulance/pumper built on a Pierce Velocity chassis with aluminum cab and body. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)

The officer’s side showing the extended cab for the ambulance transport area as well as large compartments for firefighting equipment. [Photos 2-3 courtesy of the South Ogden (UT) Fire Department.]

2 The officer’s side showing the extended cab for the ambulance transport area as well as large compartments for firefighting equipment. [Photos 2-3courtesy of the South Ogden (UT) Fire Department.]

EMS transport area of pumper with extended body behind cab.

3 EMS transport area of pumper with extended body behind cab.


The department’s truck committee looked into various manufacturers to build the new unit. It ultimately went with Pierce Manufacturing because, according to West, it was willing to work with the department to design a transport vehicle that could be used for firefighting purposes as well. “We also used Pierce in our previous vehicle purchases, so we were used to their operation,” says West. “In the long run, it was a longer wait for the assembly of the vehicle to be completed at the factory because of the design. Pierce had experience building this type of unit before, having built one for Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue a few years ago.”

The vehicle is built with a dedicated EMS compartment behind the front portion of the cab. According to West, it basically is an ambulance configuration with all the equipment built in that deals with patient care and transport. “Having said that, we also have a great deal of compartment space for the remainder of the rig that contains the normal complement of engine company tools and fittings as well as basic forcible entry tools and assorted firefighting equipment,” says West. “We also chose to have a clean cab concept where turnout gear and SCBA are located in exterior cabinets. The vehicle is constructed so personnel can easily clean and decontaminate it as needed. It takes a little getting used to getting dressed when we arrive at a scene rather than being dressed already to go to work, but so far our firefighters are working through the concept.”

The vehicle has two crosslays of 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose and an extended front bumper that carries 100 feet of 1¾-inch hose for a trash line. The rear hosebed is split to carry a supply of 5-inch large-diameter hose, a 3-inch supply line, and a complement of 2½-inch hose. It also carries a full complement of ground ladders and pike poles.

“Our people visited the factory several times during the build and made some changes while we were out there, but the vehicle ultimately turned out as expected. It was great dealing with all of the people out at the Pierce factory in Appleton, Wisconsin, from the sales staff to their engineers. While most apparatus are a custom build, this pumper/ambulance concept was a complicated build for us since it wasn’t the ordinary type of pumper. The design will work for us in the long run. This vehicle will be fully staffed by three firefighter/medics who will respond first due for all alarms including EMS runs.”

South Ogden (UT) Fire Department

  • Four-square-mile response district.
  • Two stations.
  • Responds to 1,900 EMS calls, 600 fire calls on a yearly basis.

The South Ogden Fire Department saw a need to combine services into one dedicated pumper/ambulance and thought out of the box to design this special piece of apparatus. By doing so, it worked with the engineers at Pierce to design a specialized response vehicle to respond to EMS and fire runs, saving response time and operating costs as well. While this might not be the concept for other fire departments to operate with around the country, it works for the department’s response district.

Sometimes a simple solution to all of our problems concerning EMS and firefighting with limited staffing and budgeting problems might not be readily available to us. Thinking through the problem and coming up with a unique idea were tasks this fire department took upon itself and worked through.

BOB VACCARO has more than 40 years of fire service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (NY) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol, and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. He is a life member of the IAFC.

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