It Sure Looks Like a Tanker

By Ricky Riley

I’ll be the first to admit that rural water supply and tankers are not my top skillset. But in the past year or so, I’ve seen a number of departments that have to use this operation, and they do a fantastic job operationally for their communities and on the firegrounds. So when I initially saw this unit, I almost passed it by because it was really big, carried a lot of water and, finally, it looked like a tanker.

Well I was way off on this department’s thought process and design for what I coined the other day as an “enhanced urban engine.” The unit was purchased and operates with the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department in Maryland. The area it serves and responds to on the initial alarm has a number of rural areas. These rural areas require carrying a lot of water, and the department uses additional tankers to maintain a constant water supply. Its response area also has populated suburban areas with plenty of hydrants and no water supply concerns.

The department took a unique approach to the design of this apparatus and did not follow the standard designs for a unit that most of us would call a pumpertanker. It identified its response area and operational needs and designed the rig around those needs. The apparatus carries 1,500 gallons of water that provide the much needed water capacity for their rural areas. This capacity obviously will make the unit long and tall in order to accommodate this amount of water. The department did not want to sacrifice the functionality of an engine company when responding to the townhouse and housing developments that are well covered by hydrants. So, it worked with the manufacturer and kept the water capacity but incorporated a low hosebed that carries a full complement of supply line and attack lines that mirror the regular urban engines in its fleet. 

The unit is not identified as a tanker because some of the requirements defined by the NFPA, but it sure fits the bill in water capacity and its ability to deliver water with its 1,500-gpm pump. The unit also has a direct tank fill. The rig carries the standard complement of tools, equipment, and ground ladders as a regular engine company. Additionally, the ground ladders are even low on the side of the rig for easy access. 

When looking at the rig up close the other day, aside from the water capacity, it has the functionality of an urban engine with a low hosebed and sufficient number of attack lines with varying lengths. So on your next purchase of a unit that needs to carry a lot of water, take the time to design it so it meets all your operational needs—not just the water-carrying requirement. Work with your manufacturer and don’t settle for the standard. Instead, opt for an operational rig your firefighters can easily work off of and deliver the best service to your citizens.

RICKY RILEY is the fire apparatus manager for the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department. He previously served as the Operations Chief in Clearwater, Florida, and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He also currently serves as the rescue-engine captain at the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.

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