The Old and New Blend Well Together

Many builders have devised a way to carry and dispense absorbent material. We all use it, and you might as well be able to get a bucketful easily.

I’d have to say this Crimson pumper (one of two units) for Hummels Wharf, Pa., fire company is one of the best I have seen. Well thought out overall design and good equipment placement are just a few of their many attributes.

In my 60 some years in and around fire apparatus, I have seen many changes, probably more in the last ten years than the first 50. But looking back, how can one not remember, love and appreciate the distinctive look of 1950 vintage units such as the Memphis Pirsch “Squirrel Tail” pumpers, the Seagraves, the “L” model Macks or the American LaFrance 700 series? It can easily be said they had Class with a capital “C.”

Our current crop of apparatus builders are busy keeping up with changes from NFPA, the engine manufacturers and the new electronic gadgets. It seems they have less time, money or desire to develop that “special look.” There are notable exceptions such as the Pierce Quantum or the Spartan Furion; otherwise it is increasingly difficult to tell one from another. Guess that is no different than the cars that are on the market.

Color is one way to differentiate a department or a fire company, and I do believe we have used up almost all of the available hues in the color spectrum. Don’t take this the wrong way – I am still a purist – fire trucks should be red. But then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There has been a trend toward moving the major components around, perhaps driven by the change in the primary mission from firefighting to life support. Rear-mounted pump panels are more common, as are larger cabs to carry more medical equipment in a temperature-controlled environment.

Updates of existing hardware such as electric cord, hydraulic and hose reels have led to as many as 8 to 10 reels per truck instead of the single booster reel used in the past. Equipment mounting has moved into the 21st century with most builders being capable doing a great job of tool placement and security.

One of the most significant areas of improvement is the result of apparatus technicians being involved in the specification process. Can you remember when it took a day and a half to get the pump panel off just to change a valve seat? Now we have pumps and plumbing that are wide open when the cab is tilted; or hinged pump panels that can be opened in minutes. That’s progress, and it also reduces the out of service time.

The safety officers have been involved, and as a result, there is more thought being put into slip resistant surfaces, walkway and scene lighting, highway visibility, eliminating reasons for getting on top of the rig and, oh yes, buckling the seat belts. (We are making progress despite tradition and machismo.)

If you look at rigs in the past, one of the more frequent problems was electrical. Not enough generating capacity, too many high amp warning lights and generally poor or no real control of the electrical systems. It looks like these are now problems of the past with multiplex systems, LED lighting and electrical system load management.

With rust being the major enemy of steel bodies in the 1970s, stainless steel, aluminum, composite and plastic bodies have greatly reduced corrosion problems. That too, is good progress.

All things considered, the apparatus of today are far more advanced than what we had in the ’50s and ’60s. No, they are not problem free, but better designs, better accessory equipment and 50 years of experience has allowed the new units to better meet today’s requirements of the fire and rescue services.

One final note, when developing new specs, keep safety and simplicity in mind.

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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