Special Delivery: Vermont Town Replaces Reel Truck With KME CAFS Pumper

The KME pumper purchased by the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department is built on an International 7400 SFA 4x4 cab and chassis and is equipped with a FoamPro 2002 Class A foam system and Waterous 1000 Pneumax CAFS.
The KME pumper purchased by the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department is built on an International 7400 SFA 4×4 cab and chassis and is equipped with a FoamPro 2002 Class A foam system and Waterous 1000 Pneumax CAFS.

When Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department members set out to purchase a new apparatus, they were looking to replace an aging hose reel truck to serve their rural community in central Vermont. They ended up with a 2009 KME pumper with a compressed air foam system (CAFS).

During the specification process, Tunbridge Fire Chief John Durkee and others attended a regional fire school where they were exposed to the benefits of CAFS. “I went to a class on compressed air foam and I started looking at it closely,” Durkee recalled. “I came back and said, ‘This is the way we’ve got to go.'”

He said he was impressed with the substantial increases in cooling and knockdown power CAFS provided over straight water. “For years, our focus has been on water supply,” he said, “and with CAFS we don’t have to focus on it so much.”

After discovering what CAFS could do, Durkee said he could no longer see the need for a reel truck because the combination of water the department had on wheels with CAFS would, in most cases, handle just about any fire the town would experience.

So department members settled on a compressed air foam apparatus built on an all-wheel drive International cab and chassis by KME, a custom apparatus builder in Nesquehoning, Pa.

“There were some people in town who said they couldn’t justify the cost, but my response was how can you not justify it,” Durkee said.

Astonished At CAFS

He said he and other department members have been astonished at what CAFS can do during training, knocking down “ripping fires” with single digit gallons of water and scant ounces of foam agent.

Compressed air foam cools propane tanks four times faster than straight water and cools air eight times faster than just water, he said. “It’s clear to see the advantages.”

The new pumper’s design was developed with the assistance of Jim Hendry, a KME factory sales representative from Jericho, Vt., who is headquartered at the factory branch in Latham, N.Y. “It took quite a few drawings to come up with what the town wanted,” he said, “but when we got done, it turned out to be a unique apparatus.”

The initial challenge was a height restriction of 117 inches to fit into the station bay, according to Hendry, who said the apparatus is 115.5 inches tall. He said members of the department approached him at the New England Association of Fire Chiefs exposition in Springfield, Mass., about two years ago with questions about whether a large apparatus built on an all-wheel-drive chassis would meet their height limitations.

“I told them I didn’t think there would be any trouble with the specification,” Hendry said. Thus the relationship between Tunbridge and KME was formed.

Exceptionally Affordable

Durkee said department members were somewhat familiar with the manufacturer because a neighboring town had bought a KME pumper and its members were very happy with the purchase. That put KME on the short list to build the truck.

Tunbridge wanted a lot on a short truck with all-wheel drive and on a short budget. Because KME is a custom builder, Hendry said the company was able to provide the product the town needed and on budget.

“We don’t do cookie cutter trucks,” he said. “It took a while to come up with the final layout… We worked really hard to give them exactly what they wanted.”

Tunbridge had been saving money for a new apparatus for a number of years and borrowed the difference, $150,000, to buy the KME. The price was $297,207, which Hendry called an exceptionally affordable price for a CAFS pumper with all-wheel drive.

“They wanted to show the community they got a truck for work, not a parade piece,” he said. At the same time, he said finish and customization was not sacrificed.

Chief Durkee said the department needed to have space for ladders, long tools, a portable tank and hard suction sleeves. Because the town has many dirt roads and endures harsh weather, the decision was made to put all the tools inside the body, completely enclosed. Through-the-tank ladder storage compartments were built into the apparatus, as well as compartments for other equipment on the sides of the tank.

Making the apparatus even more challenging was the need to carry 1,000 gallons of water, as well as a restriction on length to fit the station and to make it easier to navigate narrow dirt roads. The pumper is 27.5 feet long. A slide-out tailboard helps reduce the overall length and provides a way to access the hose bed. A pull-out platform at the pump panel also helps with accessibility and keeps the pump operator off the ground and out of the way of hoses.

For all of its features, Durkee said the heart of the apparatus is its CAF system. “It helped us to downsize from four to three trucks,” he said, noting that the department was able to retire one of its older apparatus in addition to eliminating the reel truck.

Tunbridge’s CAFS pumper was delivered in April, and not long afterward, the department had live burn training at a donated house. The fire was allowed to engulf the kitchen, and in a coordinated effort, Durkee said a window was knocked out, the CAFS nozzle was opened and within seconds the fire was knocked down. “We used about three gallons of water and maybe six tablespoons of foam,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Durkee said he liked working with KME. “I would highly recommend them,” he said. “We took three trips to see the truck, and I would say it was worth the time. Each time we made a few adjustments and they were very responsive. The salesman was excellent, and we got exactly what we wanted.”

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  • International 7400 SFA 4×4 cab and chassis
  • MaxxForce 9 330-hp turbo diesel engine
  • Allison 3000EVS-P transmission
  • Exhaust brake

Pumping Features

  • Hale Qmax 1,250-gpm pump
  • 1,000-gallon UPF Poly IIE tank
  • 40-gallon integrated Class A foam cell
  • FoamPro 2002 Class A foam system
  • Fire Research Corporation InControl pressure governor
  • Waterous 1000 Pneumax CAFS with a 200 cfm compressor

Other Features

  • Whelen NFPA package LED warning lights
  • Whelen electronic siren
  • TFT BlitzFire pre-connected monitor
  • Akron smooth bore nozzles
  • Roll-out trays and roll-up doors
  • Fire Research Corporation 750-watt Optimum scene lights
  • Stainless steel body
  • R.O.M. Roll-up doors
  • Pull-out rear tailboard
  • Internal storage of hard suction, portable tank and ladders

Price $297,207

Tunbridge (Vt.) Volunteer Fire Department

Strength: 16 active members providing fire suppression and emergency responses to approximately 35 calls annually.

Service area: Rural agricultural community with 96 miles of dirt roads.

Other apparatus: 1991 Pierce pumper with a 1,250-gpm pump and a 1,000-gallon tank; 2004 International/V-Tech tanker with a 2,000-gallon tank.

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