Attendees at this year’s Fire Department Instructors Conference exceeded 27,400 according to Eric Schlett, executive director of the event held in Indianapolis.
Despite the enormous exhibit size and the number of exhibitors, the halls were full of interested fire service people for the full 2.5 days the show operated. It was interesting to watch as members of fire departments in their identical colored T-shirts stopped in the middle of an aisle and whipped out a map to try to find their way to the next exhibitor on their lists of people to see.
In a nutshell, there was too much to see and digest for even a five-day show. Every vendor seemed to have that “ultimate solution” for a problem that some firefighters didn’t even know they had.
For us “truck nuts” there was a never ending number of new wrinkles to charge our batteries and let us think that that some manufacturers had actually reinvented the wheel. With this column are some pictures of new or unique equipment that was displayed at the show.
Spartan Motors had two of the most unusual trucks on display. The first was an armored personnel carrier appropriately labeled “bus to airport.” With a radiator grill protector weighing in at 1,000 pounds and an engine hood cover at 1,500 pounds, you could say it was “hell for stout!” They also brought back the concept of a double-ender chassis that included two cabs; one on the front and one on the back of a chassis, an idea the company launched 20 years ago. It was complete with over 500 different options that are available when purchasing a chassis from the Spartan.
Rosenbauer unveiled five “Tech Drive 07” units, which include the new “RoadRunner” 68-foot telescopic water tower, a Metz 100-foot aerial, a “twin chrome stack” rescue with a command center (the boys on the East Coast will love this) and a version of its urban interface “Timberwolf” apparatus.
The show also brought some good news in the warning light segment of the fire service. The cost of LED lights is going down, and their sizes are getting bigger and their flashes brighter. In fact, Weldon, a division of Akron, unveiled the first in a series of LEDs with flash rate and cycles that can be changed or adjusted by simply putting a preprogrammed flash drive stick near the lens.
As most of you know, I have been recommending all apparatus be equipped with light towers. SuperVac’s Command Light division, Will-Burt and Tempest all had many choices of these versatile products on display. Havis-Shields and Fire Research had their wide range of portable and brow-mounted 12- and 120/240-volt lights available for those of us who like to “touch and feel” the product.
A “Tip of the Helmet” to Fire Research for doing the impossible and introducing a new seat belt monitoring system complete with a lateral “G” force indicator display. And the “nay sayers” said it couldn’t be done for commercial chassis. Fire Research proved them wrong.
Pierce introduced its version of a compact pump house area with its PUC pumper that features a W.S. Darley & Co. pump. For years, some of us have been preaching we are devoting an inordinate amount of space to the pump and plumbing when they are so infrequently used. It’s about time apparatus manufactures really start rethinking pump needs and space requirements, especially in this quickly evolving fire service climate where we find ourselves.
I was interested to see that lime yellow rigs haven’t gone away, but each year there are fewer and fewer of them on display.
There were chassis on display at the show from American LaFrance, International and Freightliner that would be ideal for compact apparatus, but I’ll save the discussion on the need for smaller, cheaper and more maneuverable apparatus for next month.
That’s about it from one tired “truck nut.” As one attendee astutely commented when he left the show, “I’m on information overload!” I can agree with that!
Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is editorial director of Fire Apparatus and has been involved with the fire service for more than 40 years as a firefighter and industry consultant. He is a member of the NFPA 1901 Fire Apparatus Standards committee, an organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium and a long-time member of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association.