Quick-Attack Pumpers Continue to Enjoy Resurgence in Popularity

By Alan M. Petrillo

1 Summit Fire Apparatus built this quick-attack truck for the Western Holmes (OH) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 chassis. (Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)
1 Summit Fire Apparatus built this quick-attack truck for the Western Holmes (OH) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 chassis. (Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)

They go by different names – fast-attack units, mini pumpers, quick-attack pumpers – but they share similar features and missions.

Typically, these vehicles have short wheelbases; have gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) under 20,000 pounds; carry a modest-sized pump, around 300 gallons of water, and perhaps some foam; and are charged with fire knockdown duties and sometimes even rescue operations.

Mini and Midi Pumpers

2 The Jacksonville (MD) Fire Department went to Summit Fire Apparatus for this fast-attack/brush truck built on a Ford F-550 chassis and adapted to Super Single tires and rims
2 The Jacksonville (MD) Fire Department went to Summit Fire Apparatus for this fast-attack/brush truck built on a Ford F-550 chassis and adapted to Super Single tires and rims.

Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says that departments coming to Summit say they want smaller pumpers with the ability to get into and out of areas where larger vehicles might have trouble. “They want vehicles that are able to get in quicker, and their firefighters often don’t want to drive large trucks,” Messmer says. “They tell us they want a vehicle that’s more agile and able to get around better in tighter areas.”

Summit recently built a quick-attack mini pumper for the Reedy (WV) Fire Department, Messmer notes, on a Ford F-550 4×4 chassis with a Powerstroke 6.7-liter V8 turbo diesel engine, seating for six firefighters, a Waterous 1,250-gallon-per-minute (gpm) power takeoff (PTO) pump, and a 300-gallon polypropylene water tank with an integral 30-gallon foam tank. Summit also built a mini pumper for the South New Berlin (OH) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 that seats six firefighters and carries a Hale 1,000-gpm pump and a 250-gallon water tank. Both rigs have Robinson roll-up doors and a transverse compartment behind the crew cab.

3 Midwest Fire Equipment built this fast-attack pumper for the Whiteford Township (MI) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 crew cab chassis with Super Single rims and tires and a four-inch lift kit. (Photos 3 and 4 courtesy of Midwest Fire Equipment.)
3 Midwest Fire Equipment built this fast-attack pumper for the Whiteford Township (MI) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 crew cab chassis with Super Single rims and tires and a four-inch lift kit. (Photos 3 and 4 courtesy of Midwest Fire Equipment.)

As a slight step up from the typical mini pumper, Messmer says Summit built a “midi pumper” for the Clinton Warren (OH) Fire Department on a GM 5500 four-door chassis with an emergency medical services (EMS) compartment in the crew cab. The rig has a Hale 1,000-gpm midship pump, a 300-gallon UPF Poly water tank, a Hale 2.1A FoamLogix foam system, all Akron Brass valves, and a 10-kW SmartPower generator.

Brett Jensen, vice president and general manager of Midwest Fire Equipment, says Midwest recently built a quick-attack pumper for the Dawson Rural (MT) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 chassis with a crew cab, ROM anodized aluminum roll-up doors, a Darley 2BE 21-horsepower (hp) portable pump configuration, and a 400-gallon polypropylene water tank. Jensen says the unit has a Scotty around-the-pump foam system, a hose reel with 100 feet of one-inch hose, six Whelen LED scene lights, and two Whelen Pioneer LED telescoping lights.

4 This fast-attack/rescue rig was built for the West Glendive (MT) Fire Department by Midwest Fire Equipment
4 This fast-attack/rescue rig was built for the West Glendive (MT) Fire Department by Midwest Fire Equipment.

“Fire departments are trying to pack as much as they can on one truck,” Jensen observes. “They often want rescue tools on a mini pumper so they can use it for motor vehicle accidents, as well as in fire suppression activities. If they go to a structure fire, most departments use the vehicle for getting a line out to protect neighboring structures but not for going into the building that’s burning because they don’t carry enough water.”

He notes that Midwest Fire built a somewhat different category quick-attack mini pumper for the Whiteford Township (MI) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 crew cab diesel chassis with Super Single rims and tires and a four-inch suspension lift kit done by Luverne Truck Equipment. The vehicle has ROM roll-up doors on an all-copolymer body, a front transverse compartment, and top coffin compartments. The Whiteford rig has a CET SM-PFP 20-hp pump and a 300-gallon polypropylene water tank.

5 KME built a quick-attack squad for the Riverside (PA) Volunteer Fire Company on a Ford F-550 chassis. (Photos 5 and 6 courtesy of KME.)
5 KME built a quick-attack squad for the Riverside (PA) Volunteer Fire Company on a Ford F-550 chassis. (Photos 5 and 6 courtesy of KME.)

Watch the Size

Grady North, product manager for E-ONE, notes that many fire departments would like to take a full-size pumper and shrink it into a mini pumper that’s faster and multipurpose, but often they try to do too much with the rig because most smaller chassis have a limitation of a 19,500-pound GVWR. “We do a lot of the extended cab versions where the department can store medical supplies in the cab,” North says. “We get some four-door cab requests, but they become pretty cramped when the firefighters are in there wearing turnout gear.”

6 The Prichard (AL) Fire Rescue Department turned to KME to build this quick-attack pumper with a midship pump on a Ford F-550 chassis
6 The Prichard (AL) Fire Rescue Department turned to KME to build this quick-attack pumper with a midship pump on a Ford F-550 chassis.

Jason Darley, North American accounts manager for W.S. Darley & Co., says Darley uses PolyBilt® bodies “to provide weight savings over other types of material, which helps with the amount of water the mini pumper can carry.” Darley notes that the Ford F-550 chassis is limited to a maximum of a 1,500-gpm pump because of the horsepower rating of the chassis engine and that a typical water tank on a Darley mini is a 300-gallon model with a 25-gallon integral foam tank. “If you put a compressed air foam system (CAFS) on the vehicle, it makes the water go further, making a rig that can’t carry a lot of water that much more effective.”

Storage and Pump Capacity

7 W.S. Darley & Co. built this fast-attack rig carrying a midship pump and an AutoCAFS compressed air foam system (CAFS) for the Sheldon (TX) Fire Department. (Photos 7 and 8 courtesy of W.S. Darley & Co.)
7 W.S. Darley & Co. built this fast-attack rig carrying a midship pump and an AutoCAFS compressed air foam system (CAFS) for the Sheldon (TX) Fire Department. (Photos 7 and 8 courtesy of W.S. Darley & Co.)

North points out that most of the pumps that E-ONE has put on mini pumpers are 1,000- to 1,500-gpm units. “They are heavy and take up quite a bit of space,” he says, but the department gets Insurance Service Offices points for pumping capacity.”

Mike DuFrane, vice president of sales for the Midwest region at Pierce Manufacturing, says that by using voice of customer groups, Pierce determined that storage capacity and bigger pumps were the two most important elements fire departments wanted on mini pumpers. “We make an initial attack mini, a light rescue mini, and a utility mini pumper,” DuFrane says. “It’s a single-body architecture where we redesigned the body and mounting style to eliminate the pump house, so the pump structure is now mounted in the body. That means the over-the-wheels compartments are larger and in a more central area of the truck, while there are smaller compartments in front of the wheels for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and SCBA bottles.”

8 The Hiller (PA) Volunteer Fire Company had W.S. Darley & Company build this quick-attack pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis with a rear-mount Darley pump with a CAFS
8 The Hiller (PA) Volunteer Fire Company had W.S. Darley & Company build this quick-attack pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis with a rear-mount Darley pump with a CAFS.

DuFrane says some of the initial attack and light rescue minis Pierce makes have been “going to bigger cities, like the Lakeland (FL) Fire Department, where they are using them as light rescues,” while many of the more rural customers are using them solely as initial attack trucks. “Some customers are even putting CAFS units on their initial attack pumpers, like one we built for the Townsend (WI) Fire Department with a 1,000-gpm pump and a CAFS unit.”

Ryan Slane, product manager of pumpers and tankers for KME, says the typical mini pumper that KME offers has either a PTO or split-shaft pump ranging from 250 to 1,500 gpm and carrying 250 to 300 gallons of water, depending on the hose load, compartmentation, and equipment. “Because the total weight of the vehicle is driven by the chassis weight capacity, we might have to adjust the water tank capacity, depending on how much equipment the department wants to carry,” Slane observes.

9 A Ford F-550 four-door chassis formed the base for this quick-attack pumper built by 4 Guys Fire Trucks for the Whitney-Hostetter (PA) Volunteer Fire Department with a CET PFP 19-hp pump and a 250-gallon water tank. (Photo courtesy of 4 Guys Fire Trucks.)
9 A Ford F-550 four-door chassis formed the base for this quick-attack pumper built by 4 Guys Fire Trucks for the Whitney-Hostetter (PA) Volunteer Fire Department with a CET PFP 19-hp pump and a 250-gallon water tank. (Photo courtesy of 4 Guys Fire Trucks.)

“For pumps, we’ll put on 250- to 750-gpm PTO units or split-shaft pumps up to 1,500 gpm,” Slane says. “For the larger split-shafts we would use the Waterous CX series, the Darley PS series, or the Hale DSD series – all of which are pedestal mounted pumps – and we would build the manifolds for them.”

Wade Kirvida, sales engineer for CustomFIRE, says his company prefers to make mini pumpers with rear-mount pumps. “We are able to set up the drivelines better with a rear-mount pump,” Kirvida says, “and it also gives us more control with weight distribution, allowing for a very clean design.”

10 This fast-attack rescue-engine for the Gorman (MD) Fire Department was built by 4 Guys Fire Trucks. (Photos 10-11 courtesy of 4 Guys Fire Trucks.)
10 This fast-attack rescue-engine for the Gorman (MD) Fire Department was built by 4 Guys Fire Trucks. (Photos 10-11 courtesy of 4 Guys Fire Trucks.)

Full-Size Usage

11 The North Franklin Township (PA) Volunteer Fire Company had 4 Guys Fire Trucks build this fast-attack rescue-pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis.
11 The North Franklin Township (PA) Volunteer Fire Company had 4 Guys Fire Trucks build this fast-attack rescue-pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis.

Tyler Meekins, sales assistant at 4 Guys Fire Trucks, believes that fast-attack pumpers are getting more popular because the cost of custom pumpers continues to get higher. “A lot of departments use a mini pumper like a full-size pumper,” Meekins says. “Some minis we make have 1,250-gpm pumps on them and 300 gallons of water, and you don’t need a commercial driver’s license to drive it.”

Meekins says 4 Guys recently built a mini pumper for the Gorman (MD) Fire Department on a Ford F-550 chassis with a Hale 1,000-gpm pump, a 290-gallon water tank, a 10-gallon foam tank, and a FoamPro 1600 foam system. 4 Guys also built a quick-attack pumper for the Whitney Hostetter (PA) Volunteer Fire Department on a Ford F-550 four-door chassis with a CET PFP-19-hp pump, a 250-gallon water tank, roll-up doors, and FRC Spectra LED scene lights on each side of the body.

12 The Sedgwick County (KS) Fire Department had Unruh Fire build this quick-attack squad on a Ford F-550 chassis with a Hale HBX B18 200-gpm pump, a 300-gallon water tank, and a foam tank. (Photo courtesy of Unruh Fire)
12 The Sedgwick County (KS) Fire Department had Unruh Fire build this quick-attack squad on a Ford F-550 chassis with a Hale HBX B18 200-gpm pump, a 300-gallon water tank, and a foam tank. (Photo courtesy of Unruh Fire.)

Todd Nix, apparatus consultant for Unruh Fire, says Unruh put a hydraulically driven pump on a mini pumper that it sold to the West Des Moines (IA) Fire Department. “It’s a Hale AP-25 250-gpm pump, hydraulically driven so it can do pump and roll,” Nix says. “The rig is on a Ford F-550 chassis and carries 300 gallons of water with an integrated 20-gallon foam tank. The department is using it for EMS response, vehicle fires, brush fires, and dumpsters.”

Nix also serves as a lieutenant at the Sedgwick County (KS) Fire Department, which purchased a mini pumper from Unruh Fire. “We had a fully involved garage fire that had living quarters above,” Nix says. “Our mini has 300 gallons of water and a Hale HBX-200 B18 200-gpm pump and foam. As a quick-response vehicle, we got there quicker than our Type 1 pumper. We had the fire knocked down when the first engine pulled up to the scene. I wouldn’t hesitate to use a quick-attack pumper with foam to darken down a structure fire.”

13 The Mt. Olivet (WV) Fire Department went to Precision Fire Apparatus for this quick-attack pumper that mounts a 300-gallon water tank, a 10-gallon foam tank, a Hale HP200 pump skid unit, two booster reels, a front bumper turret, and one 1¾-inch hose preconnect. (Photos 13-15 courtesy of Precision Fire Apparatus.)
13 The Mt. Olivet (WV) Fire Department went to Precision Fire Apparatus for this quick-attack pumper that mounts a 300-gallon water tank, a 10-gallon foam tank, a Hale HP200 pump skid unit, two booster reels, a front bumper turret, and one 1¾-inch hose preconnect. (Photos 13-15 courtesy of Precision Fire Apparatus.)

Ken Lenz, vice president of engineering for HME Inc., says fire departments want the solution of a smaller truck so they don’t have to run their full-size pumpers around, but they don’t want to give up the capabilities of the larger rig. “With the smaller pumpers, we can give them 1,500 gpm in a midship configuration with 400 gallons of water,” Lenz says. “If they are heavy with extrication equipment, we’ll give them a 300-gallon water tank, but if it’s a wildland firefighting vehicle, we’ll give them 500 gallons of water.”

Lenz points out that HME also makes mini pumpers with CAFS. “It’s a hydraulically driven compressor up to 100 cubic feet per minute (cfm), where it’s a balance pressure system, allowing the operator to flip a single switch to turn the compressor on and then use foam,” he says. “It’s an option that fire departments select quite often.”

Precision Fire Apparatus built this quick-attack/brush unit for the Sunrise Beach (MO) Fire Department on a Dodge 5500 chassis with a Hale HP200 pump skid unit, 300-gallon water tank, one 1¾-inch hose crosslay, and two one-inch booster reels.
14 Precision Fire Apparatus built this quick-attack/brush unit for the Sunrise Beach (MO) Fire Department on a Dodge 5500 chassis with a Hale HP200 pump skid unit, 300-gallon water tank, one 1¾-inch hose crosslay, and two one-inch booster reels.

Call Types

15 Wilkins Township (PA) Fire Department Co. 3 had Precision Fire Apparatus build a quick-attack pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis with a severe-duty suspension upgrade that kicked the GVWR 3,000 pounds higher to 22,500 pounds. The rig has a rear-mount Hale 1,250-gpm pump, a 300-gallon water tank, a 30-gallon foam tank, and a Hale FoamLogix foam system
15 Wilkins Township (PA) Fire Department Co. 3 had Precision Fire Apparatus build a quick-attack pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis with a severe-duty suspension upgrade that kicked the GVWR 3,000 pounds higher to 22,500 pounds. The rig has a rear-mount Hale 1,250-gpm pump, a 300-gallon water tank, a 30-gallon foam tank, and a Hale FoamLogix foam system.

Trapper Meadors, sales engineer for Precision Fire Apparatus, says, “A lot of fire departments use mini pumpers to run to nuisance calls, fire alarms, and even as rapid intervention team vehicles. Very often these vehicles have rear-mount pumps, although we do see some midship pumps.” Meadors notes that Precision is most comfortable putting a 300-gallon water tank on a mini pumper chassis, “because you have to scrutinize the department’s weight load and the equipment it wants to carry to not go over the GVWR.”

16 HME made this Pack Rat mini pumper for the Dayton (OH) Fire Department. (Photos 16 and 17 courtesy of HME.)
16 HME made this Pack Rat mini pumper for the Dayton (OH) Fire Department. (Photos 16 and 17 courtesy of HME.)

Often a department will opt for a Super Single conversion, Meadors says, in which case Precision ships the chassis to a maker in Texas, which removes the stock Ford axles and installs new Dana 80 series axles, wheels, tires, and brakes.

Kirvida says CustomFIRE recently built a mini pumper for a customer in northern Wisconsin on a Ford F-550 4×4 chassis with a 1,250-gpm Waterous pump and a 300-gallon water tank “because they wanted to be able to take the truck offroad where they couldn’t get a full-size pumper. For other departments, the mini enhances the fleet by taking the less critical calls so their first-out pumpers don’t have to run to everything.”

17 The Mini Evo mini pumper made by HME is designed for fast-attack scenarios
17 The Mini Evo mini pumper made by HME is designed for fast-attack scenarios.

About the future for quick-attack and mini pumpers, Messmer observes, “There will always be a desire for these smaller pumpers, and the resurgence in interest we’ve seen recently is proof of their continued popularity.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

18 CustomFIRE built this rear-mount mini pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis for the Oak Grove (MN) Fire Department. (Photos 18-20 courtesy of CustomFIRE.)
18 CustomFIRE built this rear-mount mini pumper on a Ford F-550 chassis for the Oak Grove (MN) Fire Department. (Photos 18-20 courtesy of CustomFIRE.)
19 The Gordon (WI) Fire Department chose CustomFIRE to build this mini pumper on a Ford F-550 two-door chassis.
19 The Gordon (WI) Fire Department chose CustomFIRE to build this mini pumper on a Ford F-550 two-door chassis.
20 This is the Hale pump panel on a fast-attack pumper CustomFIRE built for the Wascott (WI) Fire Department
20 This is the Hale pump panel on a fast-attack pumper CustomFIRE built for the Wascott (WI) Fire Department.

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