Five Questions for Chris Ferrara, President and CEO of Ferrara Fire Apparatus

Chris Mc Loone

CM: How has the F-Shield been received and what led to its development?

CF: It was really a unique theory and process. We all thought, looking at the fire industry, that we really wanted to come up with something that could have a dynamic impact on the fire service throughout the country.

One thing we have seen year after year-that a lot of the frame rails are deteriorating and rusting. So, we reached out to fire departments across the country and found that that is really a growing problem. With some of the corrosive materials they use for salting roads and deicing roads, it’s really playing havoc on a lot of the understructure of fire trucks, mainly in the northeast but really all across the country with some of the issues even in the south with salt conditions around Florida and the Gulf Coast areas.

We did some research and we found this product that we think is going to set the bar to solving the rust and corrosion of frame rails. As you know, fire departments have to keep fire trucks longer than any other time before with the tough economy. So, we came out with this idea and it seems to be taking off by storm. I think we set the bar and I think it’s going to be a great savings and a mechanic’s dream working on these trucks as the trucks get older.

CM: What is the biggest issue in the fire service today and what is Ferrara doing to address it?

CF: I think the biggest issue is the funding-whether it’s firefighters getting laid off or funding to purchase equipment. I think we really have a tremendous problem across the world of helping fund fire departments so they can maintain their services. That’s a big concern to me and I’m sure it’s a big concern to a lot of fire departments. Every time we see our U.S. congressmen [or] our U.S. senators, we tell them day in and day out that they have got to help fund this fire service program. So any time we can reach out to any of our politicians or anyone that will listen to us, we spread the word that we have to have additional help in the fire service to help promote fire safety across the country and help support these fire departments.

CM: What is the most important product Ferrara makes?

CF: That’s a tough question. We build so many different products. We’re so diverse in building rescues to aerials to specialty units, but what really sets us apart is that we are still a custom builder today. Customers love what we do where we can sit down with a customer and say, “What best fits your needs?” If you want a special compartment size, a special length of body, a special length of chassis, we can do it. It really makes a big difference in my mind that the customer really wants what he wants and why he wants it. And, we want to give it to him and fulfill his needs. So, the most important product is all the products we manufacture. Because whether it’s a rescue or an aerial, it’s a heavy duty product. We really set the bar of building the heaviest product out there. As Peter [JØrgensen] would say, we have more extrusions in our body. I was nicknamed Mr. Heavy Duty by him many years ago, and we have stuck to that tradition.

CM: What’s next for Ferrara?

CF: We are constantly looking for new ideas and new ways to make the product better and last longer. We’re known to come up with different innovations and we really like to show our customers how the trucks are built from the inside out. So, you’ll see at some of the major trade shows that we actually bring an unfinished body on one side and a painted body on the other side so we can show customers how our product is built from the inside out. The number one goal as we move forward is finding ways to enhance the product to last a lot longer given the restraints of the economy today. But not only that, also making the product safer for the fire departments. Our number one goal has been building a safe product. When a fire department is unlucky and gets in a wreck, we want firefighters to always walk away from the product. And, we’ve demonstrated that over the years.

CM: What keeps you up at night?

CF: Well, you know a lot of things. But mainly in this day and time, it’s the economy. With all the budget cuts, and we see fire departments really struggle to buy vehicles; that’s what really keeps me up today, that hopefully the economy can turn whereby we can all succeed in business and the fire departments can succeed in buying new equipment. Because let’s face it-a lot of these government officials sometimes don’t understand that this product does wear out over time. It’s a high-dollar-cost item. We feel and I feel that if the economy continues down this path, we will all struggle. When I say “we”-both us and fire departments across the country.

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