Thoughts On Shows And The Brotherhood

With the end of the year in sight, it’s time to reflect on a few of the shows and some of the apparatus that were on display. But first, a few words about brotherhood.

Recently I had the good fortune to spend two weeks at the National Fire Academy with a great bunch of guys in the Executive Leadership class. While there, my father had to have emergency bypass surgery and suffered post operation complications.

The support I received from my classmates, the academy staff and the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine staff really showed that we are a brotherhood.

A Special Bond

That special bond was reinforced when the members of the Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) Fire Department were ready, willing and able to help get my father back into his home while I was four hours away finishing my executive fire officer’s class. He had been released unexpectedly, and my mother couldn’t get him home by herself.

What other profession can you call from four hours away and have the guys come to your aid? The point is don’t ever lose the brotherhood. It is the one thing we have in this business, and we can’t ever loose it.

OK, let’s get back to the business at hand.

During the first weekend in September, I headed to Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Fire Expo show and spent some time with the people in the Responder booth. Responder is a committee of the Cumberland Valley (Pa.) Volunteer Fireman’s Association serving as an informal advisory panel of public safety leaders committed to reducing deaths and injuries among the nation’s emergency responders. I was there to help spread the word on the new vest standard.

Folks, if you don’t understand it, go to or because Nov. 24, when the new standards take effect, is just around the bend.

While at the show, I noticed the Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) Fire Department had a new Precision Fire Apparatus heavy rescue. It was built on a Spartan MFD chassis with a 500-hp Cummins engine. There were actually several nice rescues of various sizes, manufacturers and colors on display, but Mt. Lebanon’s was exceptional.

For years, Mt. Lebanon had run a smaller, well-equipped rescue truck. The vehicle had become outdated and overloaded, as happens to apparatus all over the nation. It had served the community well, but it was time to move on.

Mt. Lebanon Chief Nick Sohyda, who was standing by the apparatus like a proud father, was quick to point out that the real father was Platoon Chief Chris Butler and his apparatus committee.

Chief Butler relayed a lot of information about the development of the vehicle and what he and his committee had learned from their work on replacing the old rescue.

The new Precision apparatus, designated Heavy Rescue 198, was the product of several years of extensive research, experience, and a lot hard work by Butler, Lt. Ed Davies and the committee. The vehicle was designed to be multifunctional. It has three hydraulic reels pre-connected, two utility air reels (one pre-connected to an air chisel) and a high-pressure air reel for use with the confined space cart.

It also has two 220-volt electric reels, one pre-connected to a junction box stepping down to 110 volts and the other pre-connected to a reciprocating saw. There are six 6,000-psi air cylinders for the utility reels and the cascade system. They are hidden in the front of the box with the light tower and the vertical exhaust. The light tower has sodium lamps and quartz lights on it.

Each compartment was designed for a specific use. All the rope rescue equipment is in one compartment and vehicle stabilization tools and airbags are found in another. Hand tools are sorted into SAE and metric toolboxes.

Compartment Layout

In the rear is a 12-foot pull-out tray, rated at 2,000-pounds, with 150 pieces of 4×4-inch cribbing, 20 6×6-inch cribbing and 20 eight-foot 4×4 shoring blocks and 10 12-foot 4×4-inch shoring blocks.

Another thing that caught my eye was the way everything was set up and laid-out in the compartments. The compartments, equipment, storage boxes and trays are all well labeled. Anything that can be preconnected is, and all of the equipment is easily accessible so you don’t have to move three things to get to the fourth item. Heavy items are stored down low.

Butler pointed out that committee members took pictures of the compartment layout in the old rescue so there would be a reference to get everything back into the vehicle in generally the same place.

Under One Roof

If you haven’t been to the Pittsburgh Fire Expo in awhile, you should make it a stop on your show circuit. It moved from the Monroeville Expo Mart to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh several years ago and continues to grow. All of the major apparatus manufactures were present and a host of vendors, all under one roof and easily accessible.

It had been a few years since I went to the show, and I was impressed by the excellent training and venues offered.

Another thing that caught my eye were several variations of hose bed tarp covers. For instance, D&S Custom Covers of Rockwood, Pa., had a product at the show for all of you who are looking at retrofitting your apparatus with Chevrons on the rear.

These folks are making hose bed tarps with the street end made out of Reflexite material with the appropriate chevron pattern. These can be applied to a regular hose bed or even the wagon top style. They also make various ladder and portable tank covers and compartment protection tarps with Reflexite letters on them for added visibility.

After Pittsburgh, it was onto Wildwood, N.J., with some friends from the Green Mount Fire Company in Adams County, Pa., for the New Jersey Firemen’s Convention. This was a first time trip for me, and I was impressed with the apparatus and vendors displays. There was a lot of great stuff at the Jersey show including several great rescues. One was the Hopelawn Fire Company’s Rescue 8 which was built by Rescue 1 on a Spartan cab and chassis. This apparatus was also laid out with some great compartment designs and was well equipped. It features a rear hydraulic staircase and four-bottle cascade system.

Another horse-of-a-different-color kind of rescue was Ocean Fire District’s American LaFrance heavy rescue on an American LaFrance Eagle cab and chassis. This vehicle featured a nice setup of preconnected tools, including a junction box off of the front of the vehicle and an electric awning on the driver’s side.

The vehicle that really caught my eye wasn’t, however, a rescue. It was a 2007 Pierce quad from Fair Haven, N.J., that was just perfect and well equipped. I hadn’t scene a quad in a long time, and this piece of apparatus was very well done – from the 177 feet of ground ladders to the support equipment – all on a Pierce XT Chassis.

The quad concept is something that most departments have gotten away from over the years, and it may be time to look at it again. We always need ground ladders and support equipment on the fire ground, and this one brings along a 1,500-gpm pump and a host of equipment. This vehicle replaces a 1954 American LaFrance quad that was still in-service.

There was also a host of other great apparatus and equipment at both shows and if you have the time and means you should put both of them, or at least one, on your “Bucket List.”

Members of the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department deserve special thanks for their help with this article. As always stay safe and return to quarters.

Editor’s Note: Allen Baldwin is the manager of operations and incident response for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and a volunteer assistant chief with the Gettysburg (Pa.) Fire Department. He has been a firefighter and EMT for over 25 years, served as chief of the Chambersburg (Pa.) Fire Department and is an instructor with the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and several community colleges.

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