New Challenges With The New Year

By Bob BarracloughBy Bob Barraclough

Welcome to the New Year, 2011. I trust you enjoyed your holidays and are ready to solve the challenges ahead. Budgets, funding, brownouts, no-hire policies and “repair rather than buy new” are certainly some of the top subjects we’ll face. Can we make it through unscathed? I doubt it, but somehow, we in the fire service will find a way to continue providing the services expected, albeit with some necessary adjustments to our current thinking and SOPs.

With economic conditions as they are, apparatus buyers could be leaning toward more commercial chassis with smaller bodies and pumps such as this Pierce Contender.
With economic conditions as they are, apparatus buyers could be leaning toward more commercial chassis with smaller bodies and pumps such as this Pierce Contender.

I really don’t want to get on the soapbox, but honestly, rethinking what and how we do things should lead to a new way of doing business. It makes me cringe when I hear that an $800,000 aerial ladder with a crew of three is traveling across town to a hospital to pick up the fourth member of the crew. Just the thought of an accident with this expensive machine is not pretty, but what about the out of service time and the extra wear and tear while being used as a taxi?

At some point we are going to have to admit that the fire service is actually a med service that occasionally takes care of a fire or two. Therefore, we should be purchasing our equipment accordingly. In that 70 to 80 percent of the current calls are medically related, wouldn’t it make more sense to have an ambulance in every station and a multi-purpose pumper in every other hall. Look around, I’ll bet you will currently see just the opposite of this in your area.

If you are a regular reader, you know I espouse reducing reducing the size and, therefore, the cost of apparatus. Let’s prepare for 90 percent of the emergencies, and when the big one comes, rely on mutual aid to fill in.

Already, many cities have instituted a selective response plan where only a single engine responds Code 3 and the remainder of the assignment travels normally until the initial report indicates a need to up the response. The results? Less wear and tear on the equipment and reduced maintenance costs. Reducing fuel consumption, especially with diesel at $3 or more a gallon, is now being looked at as a means to cut costs. Green trucks are evolving to the point that we will not only see savings in fuel costs, but also in maintenance, especially in the exhaust filter area. For example, Tempe, Ariz., recently placed a Rosenbauer pumper on a Spartan Furion chassis in service equipped with a “Green Star” system to eliminate unnecessary idling of the propulsion engine.

When it comes to training, can we continue to take multiple units out of service for hours while we cover the necessary subjects? I see the electronic revolution – iPhones, virtual video conferences and who knows what – offering a way to cover many facets of our training needs.


For fire service readers, look at the next couple of years as challenges and go through the trial and error process to see what can be modified to meet the new budgets and expectations of the municipalities you serve. Then be willing to share the results (both good and bad) more freely so every department doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Moving on to several manufacturers, KME (Kovatch) seems to be holding its own as far as sales go. It continues to do well on the East Coast and in southern California, where units have been sold to both the Los Angeles city and county fire departments. Looking ahead, KME will be offering a new heavy-duty aerial design in 79-foot and 109-foot versions. The units feature 750-pound tip loads, 1,500-gpm water flow and 100,000-psi steel with a 14-foot jack spread. Results in third-party testing of KME’s Predator cab series are 4-1/2 times stronger than the minimum European roof crush standard for trucks and 2-1/2 times the frontal impact standard. KME offers hardwired and multiplexed electrical system options and both advanced EGR and SCR (urea) engine options from 300 to 600 horsepower.

The old E-ONE (Federal Signal days) purchased Saulsbury Fire to get an operation in the northeast and also to have the expertise to offer stainless steel construction. After several years, E-ONE gave up and closed the Saulsbury plant near Syracuse saying it would build stainless in Ocala, Fla. We didn’t hear much about stainless bodies from them after that.

Now that E-ONE is owned by American Industrial Partners, the new E-ONE management group has decided that it needs a stainless fire truck line and, would you believe, they went back to New York (Hamburg) and acquired the assets of R.D. Murray Inc.? This operation will offer stainless bodies with a patented fiberglass reinforced panel paint process and will be managed by Bill Savage, who was one of the founders of R.D. Murray.

Harold Boer, Rosenbauer America’s president, has been elected to the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association Board of Directors. Harold presides over the RBA facilities in Wyoming, Minn., Freemont, Neb. and Lyons, S.D. RBA has delivered several new Green Star equipped pumpers to cities around the country. The Green Star system uses a small diesel engine to provide power for the apparatus when at idle, eliminating the high fuel usage of the propulsion engine when not being used for pumping operations.

Adjusting To Change

Chemguard, a Mansfield, Texas, manufacturer of firefighting chemicals recently acquired Williams Fire and Hazard Control. Together, Chemguard and Williams offer products and services for industrial, petrochemical/energy, transportation/freight, military, municipal, offshore and airport hangar applications.

On Sept. 29, 2010 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a notice that Pierce is recalling 2,652 fire trucks because of a possible steering control problem. The trucks were manufactured between May 30, 1998 and Nov. 25, 2008. Pierce is also recalling 55 Saber and Custom Contender fire trucks for a possible battery switch problem. Fire departments should have already been contacted.

That’s it for January. I’d like to hear from our readers about how they intend to adjust to the changes the fire service is facing. Remember, seat belts save lives. Buckle up so we can all go home!

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 50-year veteran of the fire service and fire manufacturing industry. He is chief columnist for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine and a 22-year member of the NFPA 1901 Fire Apparatus Standards Committee. An organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium, he is on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Fire Services Institute and is a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association. Barraclough serves as a consultant to Rosenbauer America and is called upon as an expert witness in litigation involving fire industry products. His career includes executive positions at E-ONE, Hale Fire Pumps, National Foam, Span Instruments and Class 1.

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