Special Units Penetrate Economic Storm Clouds

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On commercial chassis, the step area under the cab doors 
comes standard with steps painted black. To dress it up a bit, 
fire departments can specify polished diamond plate for an 
upcharge of about $1,500.


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The first non-LTI ladder in Ft. Worth is this attractive new 
Smeal 105-foot quint with a 1,500-gpm pump, 500 gallons of 
water and a new style Akron monitor that allows upward 
direction of the nozzle. 
(Fire Apparatus Photo by Bob Barraclough)

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This brush truck body design has an open stand-up position 
with doors and a short piece of hose with a nozzle. Do you 
suppose this is for riding while squirting water at a grass fire? 
What happens to the firefighter when the rig slips down a bank 
and rolls over? Bad design and hazardous to the health of 
anyone who may be riding here. Do not do it.     
(Fire Apparatus Photo by Bob Barraclough)

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This small Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) can provide 12-volt 
power for lighting or equipment, 120-volt power for the same, 
heating and cooling of the cab and uses far less fuel than the 
big diesel engine used to pump and power the apparatus.

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The new Waterous CS series pumps are lighter, require less 
oil, run cooler and allow a smaller pump panel.

One would never believe that there were any problems with the economy walking the exhibit floor at this year’s edition of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Fire Rescue International trade show in Dallas. Let’s cover some of the special units that were on display and then discuss how the economic situation may affect future apparatus and equipment purchases.  

Pierce ‘Star Wars’

Yes, there were the obligatory red (and red and white) fire trucks, a goodly number of aerial devices, a surprising amount of command units and numerous wildland/quick attack rigs of various sizes and designs. From the Pierce “Star Wars” beyond-state-of-the-art command and control rig for Frisco, Texas, to the start of the “Green Wave” type of accessory with the Rosenbauer auxiliary power unit (APU) to reduce on-scene fuel usage, you could not miss the fact that the equipment is changing to better meet the needs of the fire service. And it is reflecting the progress that we are making with our hardware.

We will be seeing more emphasis on “Green” apparatus as budgets get tighter and cities realize there may be a better way to do business.

One of the new packages that caught my eye were the pump test trailers by Weis Fire & Safety and by Danko. Not only are they designed for testing pumps, but also they can serve as a trainer for new pump operators. I can see these being purchased and used for regional fire services.

Waterous had its new CS and CSU lighter (16 percent) and more compact midship pump series that requires less transmission oil (9 versus 14 quarts), runs cooler and takes less pump panel space. The CSU series flows up to 2,250 gpm.

Pierce unveiled its Changeable Response Unit (C.R.U.), a miniature version of a POD system for pickup trucks that can deliver a multitude of slide-on packages. It utilizes a hook-lift system to upload or unload a high-capacity fan, gen set, brush fire package, light unit or virtually any self-contained packages. 

Many versions of wildland fire bodies on flat bed trucks were on display. These include a pump, reel, water tank and hopefully a foam system in various configurations and options.  Having just watched a video featuring a fire department in Texas where a unit tipped over and injured several firefighters, it reaffirmed the obvious – that riding on exposed jump seats of a brush truck is dangerous and can lead to death or serious injury.

Eliminate Exterior Riding

Whether it is a builder that supplies a unit with exterior riding areas or a fire department that knowingly buys one, both are violating the National Fire Protection Association’s 1500 and 1901 standards, which state that all personnel shall be seated and belted in a fully enclosed area. In case of a death, the builder and the fire department can be found responsible for an unsafe work practice.

You are just tempting fate if you think it is safe to ride on the outside of a brush truck, or any truck for that matter. We have bumper turrets, ground sweeps or short hose lengths that can be used by firefighters walking alongside.

Cummins engines seems to have its act together and is ready for the 2010 Environmental Protection Agency requirements. 

Navistar and its Maxxforce will use “credits” in order to produce engines well into 2010. Navistar International Corporation Senior Vice President Jim Hebe maintains the company will be able to meet the emissions standards without the use of urea supplements. 

I shudder to think how many dollars were spent to deliver and set up the equipment for the FRI two-day exhibition. And you know who ultimately pays for this.

From a manufacturer’s standpoint, it is time to get away from “That is the way we did it last year” and move on to what should be done to maximize customer benefit. Cramming trucks into a display booth with no room to walk between the units is not the best way to show the special features that a truck builder has to offer.  

Maybe a multi-million-dollar exhibition that less than 20 percent of the fire service can attend is not the best way to show the features and benefits of the equipment. A regional venue costing much less, where easy travel can attract many more departments, may be more cost-effective. 

Ever-Changing Products

A headline from the Sept. 2 Dallas Morning News stated, “Cities here and beyond face years of lean times as the wreckage of the economic downturn lingers at the local level, a survey of the 
National League of Cities has found. Nine in every 10 cities surveyed nationwide are struggling financially, with costs outpacing revenues by a wide margin.”

No question this will lead to budget cuts, tax increases, delayed purchases and other unpopular measures in cities of every size. And this will affect the way fire departments and fire equipment manufacturers do business this year and for several years to come. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and say it’s a bad dream. It is something that we must face head-on and make decisions that will enable the equipment builders and the fire service to continue to provide the ever-changing products our citizens and politicians are expecting. 

This may require that we keep units in service an extra couple of years or buy a 1,250-gpm pumper instead of that 2,000-gpm monster or combine a rescue and a command van or design a combo ambulance and initial attack unit or look at what can be done to have truly “Green” units or go to quints to get the capability of two rigs in one. 

It is a challenge that I look forward to. Whether it is changes to NFPA 1500 or 1901, or to the standard operation procedures (SOPs) or just the way we do business, it has to be done and the sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we can get on with our future.

Information dissemination has been facilitated by the Internet. Those not using it are missing a big sales opportunity. We will see the day that fire trucks will be ordered just like you buy a book or a new fishing rod from Amazon.com. Are you ready?

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 50-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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