Cleaning Up the Rigs

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

As I write this, my fire company is preparing to start getting our trucks ready for the Fourth of July.

This means coming down at least one extra night per week during June and probably more as Independence Day nears. Ah, Independence Day. Good food, good spirits, good company, and lots of parades. My fire company usually participates in about four on the 4th, not to mention lining the main drag of our district with flags and standing by for fireworks. These days of preparation for the parades, where we clean every compartment and every tool on the truck, are a perfect time for rookies who aren’t ready to run to fires yet to learn what’s in every compartment on every rig. These work nights also often uncover items that may have been missed during weekly equipment checks. Maybe a saw blade has gone missing, or a spare SCBA cylinder is sitting at 4,000 psi instead of 4,500 psi. Such deep cleanings really get the trucks and equipment in good shape and result in fire trucks we all take pride in-especially if we take home trophies from the parades that are “judging” parades.

Always important is leaving the trucks on the judging grounds with operators who know them inside and out-not the occasional driver who decided to come down on the 4th to drive the trucks in a few parades to get a few points. No, we want the drivers who eat, sleep, and breathe these trucks to be with them when the judges come around and start asking questions. A little missed road dirt under a running board might not mean as much as a driver answering that he doesn’t know the answer to a question.

We recently ran an online article on cleaning apparatus titled, “Thorough Fire Apparatus Cleaning Can Head Off Potentially Perilous Problems.” You can find it at In it, author Frank Myers describes what his former department called a “Super Scrub” that it performed every four months. When a Super Scrub commenced, whatever trucks were getting worked on were taken out of service for two or three hours to allow for as complete a cleaning as possible. Tasks included taking all equipment out of the truck, wiping down all tools and equipment, cleaning and wiping the compartments, and washing and waxing. Much like our 4th of July prep work, these Super Scrubs almost always uncovered things like power tool leaks or medical items that fell behind other pieces of equipment. It’s not a bad concept and can really go a long way toward ensuring the rigs are properly prepared for their next runs. And, with the wash and wax, they end up looking good too.

I enjoy parade season for the pride and camaraderie that results, especially when one of our trucks gets the nod from the judges and in between parades the crew who worked on all the trucks and doubled up their time at the station during June to ensure everything got done proudly displays their trophy. Of course, there was that one year someone left a trophy on the front bumper and it took a ride into the street during a turn, but an instance like that only happens once in a blue moon, and we were able to get it repaired.

How much pride are you taking in your rigs? Preventive maintenance is critical to keeping our rigs on the road, but going that extra mile to “parade pack” the large-diameter hose and getting the blisters on your fingers from shining the diamond plate are the things our customers actually get to see. There’s nothing like being on scene at an incident and a member of the public asking if your truck is new and marveling at how great it looks when you tell him it’s actually 10 years old.

By the time you read this, Independence Day probably will have come and gone. Hopefully, you’ve done your own Super Scrubs whether for parades or station pride. Either way, step back, take a look at your work, and enjoy how good the rig looks.

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