Ferrara Fire Apparatus Open House Brings Together More Than Just Fire Trucks

BY JOSHUA FOWLER

In 1979, Chris Ferrara, then a pipefitter and fabricator, was a volunteer firefighter. His department found itself in need of a new tanker but didn’t have the funds to pay for it. Together, Ferrara and other volunteers built the tanker, which sparked the vision that has led to a company that bears his name.

Four decades later and now part of the REV Group, the Ferrara Fire Apparatus 300,000-square-foot facility and its more than 450 employees produce nearly an apparatus per day with new orders and return customers alike coming in daily.


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With a municipal and industrial product portfolio, Ferrara manufactures multiple fire apparatus configurations that are tailored to customers’ specific needs and demands. This allows the customer to provide input on the apparatus build from start to finish. And because of Ferrara’s flexibility in its custom builds, it prides itself in product innovation built around a commitment to the customer first and product second.

The Ferrara Fire Apparatus open house began with a tour of the facility. (Photos by Corbin Fowler.)

1 The Ferrara Fire Apparatus open house began with a tour of the facility. (Photos by Corbin Fowler.)

Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment had the opportunity to attend Ferrara’s 2019 open house where attendees were given the opportunity to tour the factory floor, meet multiple product vendors, attend apparatus demonstrations, and receive professional development through various workshops.

The morning began with a private tour of the production facility from Jason Anthony, Ferrara’s production paint supervisor. Anthony walked us through the process from frame to finished product and everywhere in between. While a little overwhelming at first, the process and all of the professionals involved performed like a well-oiled machine. Next stop …workshop!

NFPA 1851 WORKSHOP

The fire service continues to evolve as research, science, and data become more and more readily available. Unsurprisingly, we firefighters are really good at taking care of others. When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we sometimes need guidance.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, establishes requirements to help reduce health and safety risks associated with improper maintenance, contamination, or damage. August marked the fourth edition to the standard, considered the 2020 edition.

Tori King and David Moore of FireDex gave the attendees of Ferrara’s 2019 open house an informative, fast, and furious workshop noting the changes in the 2020 edition. We’re learning more and more about how to better protect ourselves during operations but, more importantly, how to protect ourselves after operations, especially those involving fires. Additionally, science and data are showing us that “salty” is dangerous—not only to responders but others who may come in contact with our dirty gear (i.e., the homes we go into for nonfire calls).

Tori King and David Moore of FireDex led a presentation on NFPA 1851, bringing more to the open house than a fire apparatus display.

2 Tori King and David Moore of FireDex led a presentation on NFPA 1851, bringing more to the open house than a fire apparatus display.

SO, WHAT’S THE FIX?

We all know that firefighting is inherently dangerous. When it comes to operations, just about every element of our job could kill us. So, why are we making the enemy’s job easier? Sun Tzu in The Art of War wrote, “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

Every day we’re learning more about what’s killing us; therefore, we are without excuse. Victory is in our hands, and the enemy has shown us their cards. Attendees learned the following actions to take:

  • Keep your face piece and bottle on during overhaul.
    • Just because you can’t see the enemy doesn’t mean it isn’t there!
  • Gross decon on scene.
    • After exiting the fire building (every time) and before going to rehab.
  • Bottle/SCBA harness decon.
    • Gross decon on scene.
    • Technical at the station.
  • Wipes.
    • On scene before returning to the station.
  • Hood exchange.
    • Two hoods per firefighter.
      • Hood gets cleaned with a mild detergent (pH between 6.0 and 10.5).
  • Gear exchange.
    • Two sets of turnout gear per firefighter.
    • Contaminated gear is sent for cleaning and advanced inspection.
  • Clean Cab.
    • If you have to carry it back to the station, bag it.
  • Shower within the hour.
  • Change/wash uniform worn under turnouts.
  • Wear nonturnout gear for nonfire calls.
    • Quit wearing your nasty gear on medical calls and in citizens’ homes. You wouldn’t wear it in your house, so quit wearing it in everyone else’s.
The day also featured a host of vendor displays that attendees could visit to learn about the newest fire service products.

3 The day also featured a host of vendor displays that attendees could visit to learn about the newest fire service products.

BIG WATER DEMONSTRATION

After visiting with several of the vendors, it was off to the “Big Water Demonstration” where we met with Brad Williamson, Ferrara’s industrial products manager.

Williamson described the units involved in the demo. “This is the world’s largest fire pump in a mobile apparatus configuration currently,” he said. “It’s capable of 6,250 gallons per minute (gpm) at draft, but it will also produce 6,250 gpm at 125 pounds per square inch (psi), which is unheard of in the business for that size of a pump. It is also capable of 10,000-gpm throughput capacity from a pressurized source. In essence, we’re actually flowing well over 11,000 gpm.”

On the rig itself, Williamson commented, “The unit has a TFT Tsunami Main Gun that’s rated up to 8,000 gpm. However, we’ve actually put 9,000 gpm through it. Then we have two TFT Monsoon guns at the back as well. Each one of those is capable of 2,000 gpm. The configuration of the Super Pumper is a 900-gallon foam cell, and we are very proud of the fact that this is the first and only unit with the FoamPro Active Max II Foam System. It’s a 300-gpm direct-inject foam system with state-of-the-art electronics that was actually teamed with Elkhart and Fire Research Corporation where they’re combining the valve controls and the foam system controls into one head. So, it’s cleaned up the panel dramatically, giving more room to work with and more versatility in the system in the number of discharges that can have foam capability. There is more user interface in what the individual heads will tell the operator from total concentration used on that particular discharge being used to total foam system use across all the discharges. The same information can be obtained with water as well. One of the neat things is that it will actually tell the operator how much time is left on the onboard foam storage tank based on the current flow rate that is being discharged. So, it’s not a level or gauge but time based on usage, which assists in resource allocation and getting totes/containers in place beforehand.”

Williamson added that Ferrara has 14 of these types of units in service and took two orders in October. On why there is a need for apparatus that can produce these flows, Williamson said, “This is a product that is receiving more growth and orders because facilities are getting larger with more storage infrastructure. Apparatus with more foam delivery capability have to grow with it. We’re proud that Ferrara is [delivering] industrial apparatus that meet those changing and growing needs—now and in the future for refineries and chemical plants.”

NETWORKING

Before calling it a day, I had the opportunity to speak with Herbie Young and Johnny Elliott of the Southeast Lamar County (MS) Volunteer Fire Department. Young said his reasons for attending were to see the vendors as well as the apparatus being offered. Elliott had never been to the facility and was interested in seeing the production floors. “I come from a manufacturing background,” he said, “so I’m familiar with the layouts. I see a lot of the similarities from where I’ve come from. It’s a very impressive facility—very well planned, organized, and laid out. I’ve always wanted to come by here and look at it. I’ve been by it several times but never had the opportunity to come in. The open house gave me an opportunity to come in and see how the organization operates.”

From my perspective, the open house was a tremendous success. Being among the vendors, participants, and Ferrara’s staff, it felt more like a family reunion than anything else. Smiles and laughter were in abundance, creating an environment of warmth while delivering the southern charm you would come to expect from a company whose humble beginnings are grounded in community service.


JOSHUA FOWLER is a district chief with Beaumont (TX) Fire/Rescue. He is the program manager for the department’s hazmat team and technical response/recovery group. He has 20 years of experience in the fire service and is the owner and founder of ChargeTheLine.com.

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