|The orange county (Calif.) fire authority recently bought E-ONE Cyclone II pumpers. The new apparatus were specifically designed with firefighter safety in mind. (E-ONE photo)|
The Orange County (Calif.) Fire Authority made some significant changes to its pumper fleet in its latest order, a $5.76 million contract for 16 E-ONE Cyclone II pumpers.
To try to reduce injuries to firefighters getting in and out of apparatus cabs and to encourage seat belt use, OCFA officials decided not to install seats that would accommodate self-contained breathing apparatus. Instead, SCBA are stored under the seats in slide-out trays accessible from the ground, and the cabs are equipped with seat belt alarms.
The authority also removed pump intakes from the front of the apparatus to improve reliability and the turning radius.
In addition each of the new pumpers is equipped with a double-arm hydraulic ladder rack developed by E-ONE, a first for the company. E-ONE had previously made single-arm ladder racks.
The apparatus were delivered in early 2007, as part of a scheduled replacement cycle, according to Engineer Joe LaRocca, who has been on OCFA’s Apparatus Project Team (APT) since 2004 and was involved in specification design for the order.
He said the replacement cycle is generally 125,000 miles or 15 years.
The Orange County Fire Authority has a $180 million budget, 60 stations, 850 career members and covers 551 square miles.
The design process for a new apparatus order is comprehensive, according to LaRocca. “We start with the old specs,” he said, “and then we ask what didn’t work on the last ones, what did we have to fix and what changes do we want to make?”
Next, he said, the team considers updates, such as revisions of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards or new emissions requirements. “As the operations representative,” he said, “my job is to talk to the troops and ask them what we might have missed, what don’t you like, and then the APT looks to see what we can incorporate in the next build.”
After final specifications were sent out, the APT held a pre-bid meeting where manufacturers could ask questions. Eight of them submitted bids. “E-ONE most closely met our specs,” LaRocca said, “and was also the lowest bidder.” Each of the pumpers cost $360,000.
He said the deliveries were staged over a period of months, beginning in early February 2007 and ending in May. OCFA installed communications equipment, including automatic vehicle location, multiple radio systems and intercoms. He said E-ONE was very responsive to the authority’s needs by opening up areas where cables could be run and installations made.
Compartmentation for tools and equipment was also done in-house, as was lettering and numbering, according to LaRocca. Depending on what vehicle was being replaced, he said, some equipment was transferred to a new apparatus and some older equipment stayed on the rig because it went into the reserve fleet. The new apparatus went into service between late April and late July.
“One at a time, each on-duty crew came in with an old engine, parked next to a new one and off-loaded all their stuff while shop staff inventoried it all,” LaRocca explained. “The shop staff decided what stayed with the old truck and what went on the new rig. They also decided what new equipment was required and loaded it. Then the crew received a five-hour orientation from one of Orange County’s factory-trained department members.”
OCFA’s service techs also received a couple days training from the manufacturer on diagnostics and repairs, he said.
Removing the front pump intakes was one of the biggest changes in the new E-ONE Cyclone II pumpers, according to LaRocca.
“We had always had front suctions, but deleted that in order to get a better turning radius,” he said. “These E-ONES are actually 14 inches longer than the previous KMEs, but our management people required the 16 new pumpers to perform equally as well. That could not happen with the front suction, so it was deleted. Even though these E-ONEs are longer, they have a far better turning radius.”
The new pumpers have gated Elkhart manual intake valves on each side. Removing the intake plumbing from the engine compartment had other benefits, he said.
“We had reliability problems with previous front-mounted suction,” LaRocca said. “We tried different options such as electric, pneumatic and manual valves for the front suction, but they each had their own problems. The side suction solved this problem. As a bonus, not only did we get better turning radius and reliable suction, we also got a little more cab room for the guys.”
The new E-ONEs have five front-facing seats, with cabinets for communications equipment behind the driver and the officer, and none of the seats are equipped for SCBA.
“Since we changed to higher tilt cabs in 2000,” LaRocca said, “we’ve had a lot of complaints of injuries that the risk management folks attributed to getting in and out dressed in full gear with breathing apparatus on. Now we’ve placed the tanks under the seats in slide-out trays.”
That change, he said, is one way of supporting the authority’s requirement that all personnel wear seat belts during responses. As is the case in other departments, according to LaRocca, many firefighters would not wear their seat belts while getting suited up with SCBA or would not wear seat belts at all during a response that required them to leave the cab with SCBA on.
“Having the tanks under the seats pretty much prevents them from donning the tanks while enroute, and our testing showed that it only adds 20 to 30 seconds for them to be fully dressed out, as they can have all other PPE in place prior to egress,” he said. “This arrangement seems to be working better both for firefighter travel safety and for reducing injuries.”
Once the rear cab doors are open and firefighters have left the cab, the slide-out SCBA trays are accessible from the ground. Future designs, according to LaRocca, will most likely not have the pull-out trays, as is the case on the department’s new tractor-drawn aerials. “It works just as well,” he said, “and there is one less step, no tray to pull out.”
The new E-ONE pumpers have another feature to improve travel safety. “These are the first rigs in our department to have alarms for seat belts not fastened,” he said.
Other improvements include exterior high-side compartments on the passenger side and a double-arm hydraulic ladder rack.
The handling of the new pumpers, according to LaRocca, is superior to the 1989-93 vintage pumpers the E-ONEs replaced.
“They run like a dream, and they ride extremely nice due to the front suspension geometry,” he said. “The braking is phenomenal. We switched to the Meritor’s EX225 disks at all four corners, and they will stand the rig on its nose, if necessary. This is a change from our traditional use of drum brakes.”
Following the devastating wildfires last October in southern California, he said many engineers and firefighters returned with positive comments about the new pumpers.
“They said the E-ONEs were very easy to work off,” he recalled. “The air conditioning was greatly appreciated since the crews were just about living out of these trucks for several days. They also told us they had a comfortable ride, something especially important on long responses where they went out of the county on mutual aid.”
He said firefighters have also been impressed with the Foam Pro 2001 Class A foam system on the E-ONEs.
“We used to have Class B, but we didn’t use it enough to consider it for these new pumpers,” LaRocca said. “And we often had trouble with the Class B when we did use it. Most of what we do is Class A stuff, structural and wildland firefighting.”
LaRocca said the Apparatus Project Team is working on a new plan for an additional ten pumpers with same general specs and a few minor tweaks.
For more information call E-ONE at 352-237-1122 or visit www.e-one.com.