Rescue-Pumpers Show Strength vs. Heavy Rescues

 Summit rescue-pumper
Preconnected hoselines, hydraulic reels, and extrication tools embeddded in a front bumper are popular elements of rescue-pumpers from a variety of manufacturers, as seen on this Summit rescue-pumper for Dover, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)
 E-ONE’s eMax
E-ONE’s eMax is a rescue-pumper design with up to 586 cubic feet of storage space. (Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)
Ferrara Fire Apparatus
This traditional heavy rescue was built for the Fire Department of New York by Ferrara Fire Apparatus. (Photos courtesy of Ferrara Fire Apparatus.)
Ferrara Fire Apparatus
Ferrara Fire Apparatus builds its MVP as a rescue-pumper design, as with this rig for the New Paltz (NY) Fire Department.
 Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department, Ontario, New York
Crosslays can be preconnected on a slide-out transverse rolling tray on Marion’s RPM rescue-pumper, shown as designed for the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department, Ontario, New York. (Photos courtesy of Marion.)
Marion makes a Fusion AP (all-purpose) vehicle that is a combination rescue, squad, and nonwalk-in rescue with a 250-gpm pump and 300-gallon water tank.
Pierce Manufacturing’s Dash CF PUC
Some fire departments have chosen Pierce Manufacturing’s Dash CF PUC as a rescue-pumper because of its ability to carry more equipment and gear in the cab and its greater compartmentation. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)

Rescue-pumpers are becoming increasingly popular across the country in today’s climate of diminishing budgets and fewer funds for apparatus, allowing fire departments to put a rig on the road that is multifunctional. Yet, even with many fire departments having to do more with less, heavy rescue units continue to hold a solid place when they go up against their pump-oriented brethren in a department’s fleet.

George Logan, vice president of commercial operations for E-ONE, says that while the economic situation over the past few years might have meant a drop in the heavy rescue category, the numbers haven’t dropped substantially.

“What we’re seeing is a rise in the number of rescue-pumpers, and that’s been going on for the last few years,” Logan says. “Rescue-pumpers are augmenting heavy rescues, but they are not totally supplanting heavy rescue units.”

Logan reports that E-ONE has seen more regular pumpers replaced by rescue-pumpers, a reflection, he believes, of the changing mission of fire departments.

“Customers are requesting more compartmentation than on a standard pumper and less emphasis on the hosebed area,” Logan says. “Compartmentation for medical equipment is another common request because of the first responder situations that many departments are finding themselves in.”

Logan cites E-ONE’s eMax pumper as a rescue-pumper design that came about in response to feedback from customers about the kinds of work they needed their vehicles to handle.

The eMax is built on a Typhoon medium cab, has a redesigned pump location and apparatus configuration with a shorter wheelbase, and allows up to 586 cubic feet of storage.

E-ONE has been including rescue tools on pumpers for a long time, Logan points out, but with the trend toward rescue-pumpers, more space is being dedicated to rescue functions than in the past. And the movement toward larger bumpers to carry preconnected rescue tools continues to be a common part of many rescue-pumpers.

“The key is what the fire department is going to do with the vehicle,” Logan notes. “We’ve seen that departments with busy roadways in their coverage area tend to order more rescue-pumpers.”

But the traditional heavy rescue vehicle, what Logan calls “a large rolling toolbox that’s an equipment and personnel carrier,” will continue to fill a specialized need in some departments.

“The heavy rescue business is personalized to the department and its particular needs,” Logan observes. “Some departments may want the vehicle to carry a lot of air bottles and have an air filling station, but the next one might want to put more emphasis on rescue equipment such as high-angle or urban search and rescue (USAR).”

Mike Moore, vice president of business development for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says his company continues to build quite a few pumpers and heavy rescues, even in today’s climate of tighter fire department budgets. But, he admits the heavy rescue market is down.

“Usually the first segment to take a hit as funds get tighter and departments cut back are the highly specialized types of vehicles, and the heavy rescue market is one of the harder-hit segments.”

Moore notes that for the past few years the fire vehicle market has been moving into multipurpose vehicles.

“We’re seeing a desire for more compartmentation and more of the rescue-pumper style being requested,” Moore says. “Some departments have moved into our PUC vehicle (Pierce Ultimate Configuration) in place of traditional rescue units.”

The PUC places emphasis on more space in the cab to carry equipment and gear, more compartmentation, and a smaller wheelbase to allow a more maneuverable vehicle. But, the line on multipurpose vehicles is blurring all the time, Moore believes. “We have built heavy duty rescues with a PUC pump and a 300-gallon water tank in them,” he says.

Although most fire apparatus have always been multipurpose, Moore says that as roles and responsibilities have changed, fire departments have had to carry the equipment and personnel on vehicles to support those changes. “In the past it was simply get a bigger vehicle,” he says. “But, now it’s how to package the vehicle to reflect the service the vehicle will be used for and to carry all the equipment it needs.”

Dennis Warren, regional sales manager for Seagrave Fire Apparatus, says multitasking with a piece of apparatus is becoming the new way of life for fire departments. “A lot of departments, from medium- to smaller-sized, and those where manpower and money are in short supply, are going with rescue-pumpers instead of traditional heavy rescues, and they still are accomplishing what they need to do,” he says.

And, while Seagrave is still building traditional heavy rescues, Warren thinks they “are starting to go by the wayside.” Yet, Seagrave also has put both pumps and tanks on traditional heavy rescue units.

Warren believes that the safety factors built into cars and trucks over the past 15 years protect vehicle occupants much better, allowing greater use of rescue-pumpers instead of heavy rescues.

“There’s a difference between entrapment in a car made in the 1970s and ’80s and those made now,” Warren says. “Today’s vehicles feature stronger construction, so we’re seeing more of a pop-the-door type of rescue. Now a department can go out with a rescue-pumper carrying two reels with a spreader and combination tool and can handle anything.”

Financial incentives also move departments toward rescue-pumpers, Warren believes.

“If a department can buy a rescue-pumper with full compartmentation on it at $700,000, compared to a pumper only at $500,000, many are choosing the rescue-pumper,” he maintains. “Why spend all that money on a heavy rescue that only does one thing?” he asks.

Paul Christiansen, marketing director for Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc., says most of the pumpers Ferrara has been building recently are rescue-pumpers. “The MVP pumper we introduced in 2009 is a rescue-pumper concept with 27½-inch- deep compartments on both sides and approximately 500 cubic feet of storage space,” he points out.

Christiansen believes that rescue-pumpers have increased in popularity because “they are taking on the heart of the work of a fire department where 92 percent of responses are for something other than fire suppression.”

Although every rescue-pumper built is a little different, Christiansen says many of them mount extrication tools on a large front bumper, allowing easy firefighter access to the equipment on scene. “It also allows the vehicle operator to nose into an accident scene so the tools are right there for them (firefighters),” he says. “Plus it saves space in the compartments.”

Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, agrees with the placement of extrication tools on rescue-pumper bumpers. “Departments love the front bumper extension with a trash line, two hydraulic reels, and two extrication tools,” Messmer says. “It’s becoming a standard feature on rescue-pumpers.”

Messmer says that very few departments want the old standby of 18- to 20-foot-long rescue body vehicles. “I was a fire chief for 26 years and always loved the rescue-pumper concept,” he says. “Sometimes, when a straight rescue was dispatched to a call, you might not get a pumper with it, especially if it was a volunteer department with limited manpower. Also, there’s often not a lot of room on smaller rural roads for multiple pieces of apparatus.” Such problems can be solved by using rescue-pumpers, Messmer believes. “A rescue-pumper that’s fully staffed can go out and get the job done,” he says.

Messmer notes that light towers are becoming key elements in rescue-pumpers. “But, light towers generally require bigger generators, so it’s all dependent on the kind of lights you put on the apparatus,” he adds.

Ed Smith, director of sales and marketing for Hackney Inc., says his company is in a niche market within a niche market. “The fire service itself is a niche market with a limited number of apparatus sold each year, from aerials to pumpers to rescues to ARFFs,” he says. “Historically, the high range would be 6,000 vehicles annually, but this year we appear to be in the low 4,000 range.”

So, Hackey’s primary focus is on the disaster response type vehicle for the rescue, hazardous materials, and USAR markets. Smith pegged the number of those kinds of apparatus sold at 800 a year.

“We are seeing the rescue-pumper market gaining momentum,” Smith says, “because shrinking budgets are taking truck and rescue companies off the street. Engine companies are now doing all things for all people and that leads us to rescue-pumpers.”

Smith says that while traditional heavy rescue unit numbers may be dropping by being replaced by rescue-pumpers, there is a small niche for a heavy rescue that can pump water.

“We’ve built traditional rescues that pump water, ranging from 500 to 1,250 gpm; have 500 gallons or less of water on them; and still carry most of the rescue equipment needed on a traditional heavy rescue,” he says. “So they’re rescues that can fight a fire but typically don’t have a full hose or ground ladder complement.”

Shane Krueger, sales manager of the rescue fire division of Marion, believes fire departments are looking for ways to reduce the numbers of apparatus in their fleets and combine apparatus where they can.

“There definitely is a trend to build rescue-pumpers but more as a replacement for a secondary engine and a rescue,” Krueger says. “A rescue-pumper may not necessarily be the first engine out the door to all calls, but it is growing in popularity.”

Marion developed its RPM rescue-pumper with a pump body contained in the front compartment, crosslays preconnected on a transverse rolling tray under the seating section of the cab, full-depth compartmentation, a four-bottle cascade storage system under the water tank, hydraulic and electric reels, and rooftop compartments.

Marion also makes the Fusion AP (all- purpose), a combination rescue, squad, and nonwalk-in rescue with a 250-gpm pump and 300-gallon water tank. “It’s not a structural firefighting pump but another resource in a multivocational vehicle,” Krueger says. “From the rear wheel back, it’s nonwalk-in storage, and from the rear wheel forward there’s a walk-in section with a command desk.”

Perhaps the rescue-pumper vs. traditional heavy rescue question is best summed up by an observation from Moore of Pierce Manufacturing. “The line is blurring as to what is an engine, a rescue-pumper, and a rescue,” Moore says. “It’s an evolution we’re talking about. It’s about the growth of responsibilities fire departments are taking on, and it’s about vehicles evolving to better suit those needs.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is 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.

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