Apparatus Ideas: Levittown (NY) Returns to TDA with New Aerial Purchase

The Levittown (NY) Fire Department is a fairly young department compared with other departments around the country and especially on Long Island. It was created in 1950, and after training, its members took over operation in 1951.

Levittown itself was designed to provide a large amount of housing at a time when there was a high demand for affordable family homes. This suburban development would become a symbol of the “American Dream” as it allowed thousands of families to become homeowners, primarily for veterans coming home from the war efforts. The Levittown Fire Department provides fire protection to this fully established community.

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Using surplus apparatus purchased from other fire departments, it operated from a wooden garage structure located on the site of the present headquarters building. The Board of Fire Commissioners had contracted for the purchase of four new pieces of fire apparatus, but they had not yet been delivered when the department went into operation.

Flash forward to 2018, and the department now operates a modernized fleet of apparatus purchased from Pierce Manufacturing. “Pierce has been the mainstay for all of our apparatus since 1993,” states Commissioner George Anderson. “We standardized with buying Pierce when we purchased our first in 1993. Our fire district apparatus replacement program usually consists of replacing our vehicles every 20 years for engines and trucks. Sometimes we may go over that timeframe because of the budget but for the most part try to stick with that concept.”

The Levittown (NY) Fire Department’s 2019 Pierce Enforcer Ascendant 102-foot TDA. (Photos by author.)

1 The Levittown (NY) Fire Department’s 2019 Pierce Enforcer Ascendant 102-foot TDA. (Photos by author.)

It has large high side compartments on both sides of the vehicle.

2 It has large high side compartments on both sides of the vehicle.


Roughly two years ago, the fire district formed an apparatus committee to replace the department’s 1998 Pierce Lance rear-mount. The committee comprised members of the Board of Fire Commissioners, chief officers, and selected company officers. “We had three parameters we had to go by when we started to design the vehicle,” says Anderson. “(1) We have a height restriction in the firehouse it would respond out of. It was an older building and the cost factor of renovation to fit a larger truck was not feasible. (2) We definitely wanted the truck to have additional large compartment space to carry more tools and ground ladders. In addition, we wanted space on the vehicle to grow in the future. (3) It had to be more versatile in maneuverability. Levittown has a great deal of tight, winding streets in the district, and this vehicle needs to be able to maneuver around the obstacles in our response district.”

In 1998, the department went with a rear-mount ladder because it was smaller than the 1967 Maxim tractor-drawn aerial (TDA) that was in service at the time. “So, we figured we would go with another rear-mount, just an updated version. Several of our newer and younger members brought up the idea of going back to a TDA,” Anderson says. “Our Board of Fire Commissioners were leery at first, since this would be a large monetary investment. The members assured us they would be willing to take on the challenge of the extra training to put a vehicle like this in service and keep it going.”


Levittown went with the HGAC Consortium, and Pierce was chosen and met all of the specs. In addition, the department had two engines on order with Pierce that would be delivered first. “We have dealt exclusively with Pierce dealer Firematic since 1993, so we were familiar with their great service, and dealing with their salesman Mike Iocono was also advantageous to us,” Anderson states. “After we decided on Pierce, our committee traveled to various fire departments in Pennsylvania and Maryland that had Pierce tractor-drawn aerials to gain some insight into their operation and design. It helped us out a great deal”.

Levittown TDA Specs
Pierce Arrow XT TDA with aluminum cab and body.
102-foot Ascendant aerial.
Overall height: 11 feet 4 inches.
Overall length: 56 feet.
Front axle: Oshkosh TAK-4, 22,800 pounds.
Rear axle: Meritor 31,000 pounds.
Detroit DD13 engine.
Jacobs compression brake.
Allison EVS 4500 six-speed automatic transmission.
Whelen LED light package.
Insta Chain package installed on rear wheels.
Four cameras: two rear-facing, one on each side.
Ladders controls on pedestal and tip of ladder.
Harrison 10-kW generator.
Two 200-foot cord reels with 10/3 cord.
Ground Ladders: two 24- and one 14-foot side stacked on officer’s side; 35-, 28-, four 24-, 16-, two 20-foot ground ladders and one 10-foot folding ladder in rear slide-in compartment.

The committee also traveled to the Pierce factory in Appleton, Wisconsin, for two visits, a final inspection, and an additional visit. The committee made some minor changes but nothing major. The dealer would install all equipment at the shop after the department took delivery, which Anderson says was a plus.

“To prepare for delivery, we hired an outside contractor for training,” says Anderson. “They were four firefighters from Seattle, Washington, who spent four days at our department performing classroom and on-the-road tillerman training,” Anderson says. “In addition, we did the train-the-trainer program for four of our firefighters so we could train additional members as time goes on.”

The rig has two saw compartments. One carries three chain saws.

3 The rig has two saw compartments. One carries three chain saws.

The second saw compartment carries rotary saws.

4 The second saw compartment carries rotary saws.

Anderson adds, “All in all, the experience has been positive all around. The training went well, and dealing with Pierce, its local dealer, and salesman was great through the sale and service after the sale.”

There you have it: a well-planned-out apparatus purchase. The truck committee decided to go back to a TDA. It designed a well-thought-out ladder truck for its community needs—the design making it more maneuverable for its drivers and able to get around its response district. The vehicle was also designed to carry more tools and has room for expansion for the future.

The TDA’s HURST Jaws of Life eDRAULIC tools for extrication work.

5 The TDA’s HURST Jaws of Life eDRAULIC tools for extrication work.

Forcible entry tools and hand tools on slide-out boards.

6 Forcible entry tools and hand tools on slide-out boards.

The truck carries ground ladders in two places: in a rear slide-out compartment (shown) and on the officer’s side exterior of truck.

7 The truck carries ground ladders in two places: in a rear slide-out compartment (shown) and on the officer’s side exterior of truck.

The rig’s ground ladders mounted on the exterior.

8 The rig’s ground ladders mounted on the exterior.

Levittown (NY) Fire Department
230 members
6.8 square miles
Population: 51,000
Apparatus: Engine 2: 1993 Pierce Lance, Engine 3: 2018 Pierce Enforcer, Engine 5: 2014 Pierce Velocity, Engine 7: 2018 Pierce Enforcer, Rescue 4: 2009 Pierce Velocity, Ladder 1: 2005 Pierce Dash 95-foot midmount, and Ladder 2: 2019 Pierce Arrow XT 102-foot TDA.

I always advocate that you have to design your apparatus for your department’s needs. You must take into account the makeup of your response area, target hazards, and maneuverability of the vehicle. The Levittown Fire Department put all of this into its design and was proactive in its thinking. In turn, it has a functional TDA that meets its needs now and well into the future.

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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