Rescues and FRI Denver: What a Great Combination

medium-duty SVI rescue
SeaTac,Wash., will soon receive this beautiful medium-duty SVI rescue. Note the LED compartment lighting and the breathing air compressor filter system.
rescue by SVI
Another example of a well-designed rescue by SVI, this one for South San Francisco. Look at the great shelf striping, good tool placement and storage for plywood sheets and fuel cans that are secured, not thrown in the compartment.

Since September’s theme for the magazine is rescue, it is time to show some of the best rescue trucks that I have seen, offer suggestions on specifications and then give a short summary of the good things I saw at the FRI conference.

It’s interesting to compare the size of these special units. To show the differences in thinking, design and budgets. Chassis range in size from a 22,000-pound GVWR GMC to a full-blown, tandem-axle, 50,000-pound GVWR or more custom chassis units that are designed to carry 10-12,000 pounds of rescue equipment.

Suggestions for developing your specs:

Know your budget: Nobody wins when you write a spec for an aircraft carrier and have only enough money for a cabin cruiser. Require five to 10 percent of the bid price be set aside for upgrades and changes after the bid is awarded with any unused monies to be returned to the purchaser.

Mission and components: Carefully determine what you expect this vehicle to do. Should it have a built-in HRT system, a hopper for Speedy-Dry, an air compressor for tools or a breathing air compressor for filling SCBA bottles, tie-off points for A-frame poles, winch receivers, etc. How many seated positions do you need? Remember, each position will require a SCBA and an extra tank to be carried somewhere on the vehicle.

Equipment payload: Weigh and measure all the equipment you intend to carry. Provide this list to the bidders so they can ensure you will have a chassis that is big enough to carry the known load plus 10 percent more for future additions. has an excellent section that includes weights and sizes of the common equipment you may be carrying.

GVWR: Don’t overload or underload the chassis. Both are undesirable and could lead to future problems such as frame twist, poor handling, cab cracking and poor tire performance.

Engine size: Be reasonable with engine horsepower. When the terrain is flat – as it is in Plano, Dallas, Tempe or Phoenix – an engine in the less than 400-hp range will allow the use of a medium-duty Allison 3000 series and probably save you $20,000 on the cost of the 500-hp and heavy duty HD transmission package. Proper gearing and limits on maximum speed (60 mph for units over 50,000-pound GVWR) will allow for good performance while saving on initial cost and fuel consumption.

Equipment mounting: Include sufficient money in the budget to have the equipment mounted by the manufacturer. This could be $20,000 to $35,000 for a large, tandem axle rescue, but it is well worth the money.

Help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from one or more of the better rescue truck manufacturers. They build these units all the time and have probably faced (and solved) many more challenges than you will encounter.

Factory trips: In the specs, specify at least two trips to the factory, especially one just before equipment mounting is to take place.

Safety: Include reflective striping in the rub rails, inside of all compartment doors (normal doors that swing out) and on the edges of the slide out trays and tool boards.

Labeling: Require capacity labels on all slide trays. Also consider labels on each tray for specific equipment.

Fuel fills: Require dual fuel fillers to eliminate the need to “jockey around” to get in position to fill the tank (spec 65-gallon tanks for larger units).

Light towers: These are a must. Command Light, Will-Burt and Tempest all have good units.

Generators: Carefully consider how many total watts/amps you will need. Most rescue trucks will use more amps than a Honda or other portable generators can provide. Consider 10,000-20,000-watt hydraulic generators (Harrison) or pto units that can offer 25,000-100,000-watts and more depending on your needs and budget. For an estimate, spec a generator two to three times the floodlight load.

Trench rescue: Consider what types of trench rescue equipment you desire (if any). Finding a place to store 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood and shoring requires some good pre-planning.

Special equipment: Where do you intend to carry bulky or low-use items or the long tools? Coffin compartments on top of the medium and heavy-duty units are excellent for this purpose. Think about how you will get the “stuff” off the top without breaking it – or a firefighter.

Tarps and overhaul: How about Visqueen plastic rolls and tarp storage?

Radios and communications: Ensure that any wiring for radios, TV, satellite, phones, etc. is specified and installed before the unit is buttoned-up. This does require some very specific preplanning to ensure success.

Special warning lights: Dual sirens, LED special or additional warning lights can be expensive. And if you are on the East Coast, don’t forget the Roto-Ray.

Denver was the host for this year’s Fire Rescue International Conference in a very large and beautiful convention center. There were many educational programs and an almost full exhibit hall with manufacturers showing their newest gadgets.

Pierce, Seagrave, KME, SVI, Smeal, Sutphen and Rosenbauer had their usual display of outstanding trucks. Ferrara had six beautifully-finished rigs, including the second hazmat unit for Houston. ALF was conspicuous by its absence, while E-One had a Bronto with a Classic Fire Logo (Classic Fire is its dealer for Wyoming, Colorado and several other states). Also noted was the increasing use of a Ford F-550 4×4-chassis attack vehicles and ATVs.

2010-Compliant Engine

International Harvester unveiled its 2010-compliant engine with a full-time flywheel PTO. They claimed that it will not require a urea tank to meet the EPA regulations. That’s a big plus for builders and users. Unfortunately, IH does not plan to make the engine available to the custom chassis builders. Betcha Cummins loves that.

It is interesting to note that Jim Hebe, formerly of Ward LaFrance, American LaFrance, Kenworth, Tampa Kenworth, Paccar, Freightliner, ALF and Seagrave, is now the North American sales manager for International. He has cut a deal to sell the ALF Condor (garbage truck chassis) through IH dealers. The Condor will use the IH engine and be built in South Carolina (at least that was the plan in late August). The next question is: When will IH announce that it will be offering either the ALF Eagle chassis or an IH chassis with a custom cab? Stay tuned for this one. Maybe this will help Spartan decide what it really wants to be – a chassis builder or a complete fire truck manufacturer.

The 2009 edition of NFPA 1901 is now available in printed form or downloadable in a PDF. Call 800-344-3555 to get your copy.

Upgrades On Schedule

Seems the changes required to accommodate the 2009 NFPA 1901 upgrades are on schedule with the custom chassis people leading the way. IH will have a connection under the dash to accommodate any one of the four VDR manufacturers. Not sure where Freightliner, Ford or GMC are in this process, but if they or the apparatus manufacturers have any problems, they are probably with the seat belt sensors.

Rosenbauer announced that its European-style helmet, the HEROS-XT, has passed all the required NFPA tests and certifications. It will be available for sale in the U.S. in September.

Denver had some great restaurants and reservations were easy to obtain for any night. Hopefully, if you were there, you were able to avoid the exhibit hall “gedunk” stands (Navy speak for a refreshment palace) with their cardboard pizzas and crunchy hamburgers for $8 a pop.

This most gracious city seemed pleased to have all the fire service folks, but, like some athletic teams, it appeared they were looking past us to the next game, the Democratic convention that was due to arrive a week or so after.

We all thank the planning committee of the IAFC for the fact that FRI was held before, not during, the Obama extravaganza. For the 40-50,000 delegates, politicians, wanabees and miscellaneous others due to attend, hotel rates were significantly increased (read 3-4 times) and local housing rentals for a week ran as high as $15,000 (ask Oprah Winfrey).

That’s about it for this month. Be safe and write good, common sense specs!

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 40-year veteran of the fire service and fire manufacturing industry. He is chief columnist for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine and a 20-year member of the NFPA 1901 Fire Apparatus Standards Committee. A principal organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium, he is also a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association. Barraclough serves as a consultant to Rosenbauer America and Akron Brass 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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