Wildland Apparatus Not Just for Wildfires Anymore

Alan M. Petrillo

Apparatus manufacturers have seen an uptick in orders for multipurpose vehicles during the past year and report that wildland and urban interface apparatus (UIA) are a solid part of that trend, from custom-built UIA to Type 3 and Type 6 wildland vehicles.

More Than Structural Firefighting

Dan Reese, general manager of Alexis, says that a lot of fire departments are asking for apparatus that can not only handle initial response to structure fire calls but also deal with other types of fires equally as well. “Fire departments are talking about the cost of response and doing more with less,” Reese says. “At the end of the day, they’re trending toward UIA, especially those departments with urban-suburban areas and large areas of forest.”

(1) KME built this Type 3 wildland unit with a 750-gpm pump and a 700-gallon water tank for the Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department.
(1) KME built this Type 3 wildland unit with a 750-gpm pump and a
700-gallon water tank for the Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department.
(Photo courtesy of KME.)

Reese notes that many departments are having injection foam systems put into their pumpers to stretch their water and give their attacks an extra punch. “They’re also setting up trucks to manifold water where they can turn the vehicles into large hydrant valves if necessary,” Reese says. “These vehicles have the capability to use the water and foam they are carrying, but if they’re in a remote area, they can use the trucks as large valves to supply water to the crews.”

In terms of Type 6 wildland vehicles, Reese says Alexis has seen more requests for vehicles that hint back to the days of the 1980s mini-pumpers. “They’re coming back to PTO-driven pumps on chassis like the Ford F-550 because motors and transmissions have gotten bigger and stronger,” he notes. “Some of these units are being set up as UIA, adding compartmentation and a bigger hose complement.”

Reese notes that he also sees a lot of wildland units being built on flatbed type chassis with skid units mounted on the back. Typically, he adds, about 70 percent of the UIA and wildland vehicles Alexis builds have rear-mount pumps.

(2) Rosenbauer built this 4x4 Timberwolf with a 1,250-gpm pump and a 750-gallon water tank for the San Juan County (NM) Fire Department.
(2) Rosenbauer built this 4×4 Timberwolf with a 1,250-gpm pump and a
750-gallon water tank for the San Juan County (NM) Fire Department.
(Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer.)

New Trend in Multipurpose Apparatus

Doug Kelley, wildland product manager for KME, affirms the trend in multiuse apparatus getting into the wildland and UIA areas during the past year. “The market is relatively strong for those kinds of special purpose apparatus,” Kelley says. “A department might buy a wildland unit it can use as a jack of all trades.”

He notes KME has been building Type 6 wildland vehicles in both flatbed and utility body configurations, usually with 125-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pumps and 300-gallon water tanks. “That’s about half of our output for wildland vehicles,” he says. “The flatbed is more of an entry-level brush truck that isn’t designed to carry a lot of equipment. Our utility body vehicle has a 109-inch-long body with three compartments on each side that can carry basic rescue tools, while our quick-attack body comes in a 10- or 12-foot length with three taller compartments on each side.”

(3) The Capon Springs (WV) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Inc. chose Smeal Fire Apparatus to build this Rage Type 3 wildland apparatus that does double duty as a rescue-pumper.
(3) The Capon Springs (WV) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Inc. chose Smeal
Fire Apparatus to build this Rage Type 3 wildland apparatus that
does double duty as a rescue-pumper.
(Photo courtesy of Smeal Fire Apparatus.)

Often, wildland vehicles will double as highly mobile quick-attack pumpers, Kelley points out. These mini-pumpers usually have a separate engine-driven pump for quick attack in addition to a midship pump in the 1,000- to 1,250-gpm range.

Kelley says about 40 percent of KME’s wildland units are Type 3 vehicles, which typically carry 500-gpm two-stage pumps, 500 gallons of water, and 16- or 24-foot extension ladders. But in the past year, KME has delivered modified Type 2 apparatus with 1,000-gpm pumps and 750-gallon water tanks on short wheelbases to fire departments in Arizona, Kelley notes, and UIA on Type 3 chassis carrying 750-gpm pumps and 700 gallons of water to the Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department.

KME also has had success with its Ridgerunner, a Type 1 pumper with pump-and-roll capability that Kelley says classifies as a true UIA. The Ridgerunner carries a full complement of structural fire ladders-extension, roof, and attic-on top of the vehicle, allowing the rig to be built on a 180-inch wheelbase, which is typical for a Type 3 or UIA.

More Compartments

Chad Trinkner, Pierce Manufacturing’s market manager for pumpers, fire suppression, and aerial products, says he’s seen the UIA trend expand from more extensive wildland trucks to custom UIA pumpers. “These are used as rapid intervention vehicles, so we introduced the Pierce Ultimate Configuration (PUC) wildland that is available in either a 4×4 or a raised frame with pump-and-roll capability, even on a custom frame,” Trinkner says. He adds that departments are asking for more space on wildland and UIA vehicles. “They want more compartmentation for rescue or EMS equipment,” he says, “because they have to respond to not only wildland fires but also other types of calls.”

Trinkner notes that nearly every wildland unit Pierce produces has some type of foam system on it, whether it is Pierce’s Husky 3 foam system or another around-the-pump foam system. “The Dallas-Fort Worth (TX) Fire Department is experimenting with high-pressure Pyrolance systems on its wildland trucks,” Trinkner points out. “The system was successful for the United States Navy, which is reporting good knockdown capabilities with it.”

(4) E-ONE built this wildland-urban interface vehicle with a bumper turret, vertical exhaust stack, and rear-mount pump enclosed behind a roll-up door for the Cashiers-Glenville (NC) Volunteer Fire Department.
(4) E-ONE built this wildland-urban interface vehicle with a bumper
turret, vertical exhaust stack, and rear-mount pump enclosed behind
a roll-up door for the Cashiers-Glenville (NC) Volunteer Fire Department.
(Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)

Ground clearance is a big issue for wildland and UIA vehicles, Trinkner says. Pierce makes what it calls a West Coast configuration chassis that raises the rear of the body to allow for a greater angle of departure and shortens the front bumper to give a greater angle of approach. “That configuration allows the vehicle to more easily get up steeper terrain and clear more obstacles over rougher ground,” he notes.

Pierce also makes a lift kit it installs in UIA and wildland vehicles. “The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) mandates eight inches of ground clearance on a pumper,” Trinkner says. “Pierce typically has 10 inches of ground clearance on our pumpers, but most of our UIA are at 12 inches clearance height because of the lift kit.”

Pump sizes on UIA and wildland units aren’t getting much bigger, Trinkner says. “Usually they’re somewhere around 500 gpm, but some departments are putting in 250-gpm auxiliary drive pumps that can handle two handlines and a bumper turret at 100 psi during pump and roll,” he says. For UIA, the typical pump size is 1,250 gpm or less, he adds.

Suburbs Meet Urban Interface

Donley Frederickson, national sales manager for Rosenbauer, says his company’s Timberwolf has made great strides as a multipurpose vehicle serving both the UIA and wildland roles. “The Timberwolf is going to a lot of suburban fire departments in the West, the Midwest, and even the East,” Frederickson says, “but we sell the most in Colorado and Wyoming.”

The 4×4 Timberwolf has a rear-mount pump, usually a 1,250-gpm model, and includes a high-pressure foam system with pump-and-roll capability. The vehicle has a large enough hosebed to accommodate various lengths and sizes of hose and has SCBA storage, full compartmentation, and either a 500- or 750-gallon water tank. “It’s the equivalent of a Class A pumper but can be used as a UIA or a wildland vehicle,” Frederickson says.

(5) Spartan ERV's most popular wildland vehicle is this MPX on an International four-door chassis with a rear-mount pump.
(5) Spartan ERV’s most popular wildland vehicle is this MPX on an
International four-door chassis with a rear-mount pump.
(Photo courtesy of Spartan ERV.)

Frederickson says Rosenbauer also has seen a lot of activity in building Type 6 vehicles. Often they are outfitted with Rosenbauer’s UHPS-V (ultra-high-pressure system) pump that turns out 10 gpm at 1,200 psi of foam or 150 gpm of water through a 1¾-inch hoseline.

“On the Type 3 vehicles we’re building, departments usually are asking for 500- or 750-gpm PTO pumps with auxiliary pumps for pump and roll,” he notes. “Every Type 3 we’ve made has been 4×4.”

One-Touch Control

Bill Doebler, vice president of sales and marketing for Spartan ERV, says his company has introduced the Intelligent Pump Solution (IPS) unit that can be installed on any chassis but fits neatly into the wildland apparatus category. “It’s a PTO-driven midship pump coupled with a proprietary CAFS in a short, narrow package,” he says. “The One Touch Rapid CAFS has only a single button for operation to make it firefighter-friendly.” The unit can be installed on a custom chassis as short as 168 inches, which allows Spartan to lop a foot off the size of a standard pumper. The IPS is offered on Type 3 and Type 6 apparatus, he adds, as well as on Ford F-series chassis categories.

Spartan ERV builds wildland vehicles in its Ocala, Florida, factory, with approximately 40 percent each being Type 3 and Type 6 apparatus, and the balance Type 4.

The company’s most popular wildland vehicle is the MPX rear-mount pump unit, Doebler points out. It’s typically built on a short-wheelbase International four-door commercial chassis and carries either a 1,000- or 1,250-gpm pump with water tanks ranging from 500 to 1,250 gallons. Doebler says about 80 percent of the MPX vehicles are 4×4 models.

(6) Summit Fire Apparatus has built a 4x4 Type 6 wildland vehicle on a newly developed, beefed-up Ford F-550 chassis, dubbed the F554 Extreme.
(6) Summit Fire Apparatus has built a 4×4 Type 6 wildland vehicle on a
newly developed, beefed-up Ford F-550 chassis, dubbed the F554 Extreme.
(Photo courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)

Pump and Roll a Must

Grady North, E-ONE product manager for pumpers, industrial, and ARFF, says the wildland-urban interface apparatus his company has been building are mostly on commercial 4×4 chassis with pump-and-roll capability. “The trend on those types of units is to install rear-mount pumps because they utilize the compartment storage areas a bit better than midship pumps,” North says.

Typically, these wildland-UIA rigs carry a 1,000- or 1,250-gpm pump and 750-gallon water tanks and have mandatory pump-and roll-capability because, North points out, “they are designed primarily with wildland firefighting in mind and secondarily as urban structural firefighting units.” Most have Class A foam systems, some have CAFS, and all are built on a shorter wheelbase that allows a 25-degree angle of approach and departure.

The second category of UIA E-ONE builds is what North calls “urban interface where the focus is more on urban firefighting responses and secondarily for wildland fires.” E-ONE’s eMAX pumper fits that role, North says, where the pump is deemphasized to maximize compartment space. “With eMAX’s pump-and-roll capability and a couple of hose reels, it can handle wildland fires from a paved road, but its primary task is urban or suburban firefighting,” he observes.

North says that UIA generally puts more emphasis on compartmentation and storage instead of on the pump. “They still maintain a master stream appliance, which you don’t see often on wildland vehicles,” North says, “but with the UIA you still have the capability of supplying deck guns and large-diameter hose (LDH).”

He notes that E-ONE also has identified a trend toward using commercial chassis instead of custom chassis for UIA, which North attributes to fire departments trying to stretch their budgets. “Also, a commercial chassis gives better angles of approach and departure than a custom chassis,” he adds.

Engine and UIA functions

Joel Konecky, regional sales director for Smeal Fire Apparatus, says the Type 1 apparatus Smeal recently built for a Southern California fire department is a very popular model for departments looking to multipurpose apparatus. The Type 1 is built on a Spartan MetroStar custom chassis (also available on a commercial chassis) with a 1,500-gpm single-stage midship pump, a 500-gallon water tank with a 25-gallon integral foam cell, and a PTO-drive auxiliary pump for pump-and-roll applications. “They typically run it as an engine company in the city, but as resources are needed it can fight wildland fires or serve as an urban interface unit,” Konecky says.

Konecky notes the trend he’s noticed most in wildland and UIA is a movement toward shorter wheelbase rigs that still maximize the ability to carry equipment. “With space at a premium, we do a lot of custom trays, pull-out tool boards, and mounted equipment that are designed for ease of use,” he says. “These apparatus carry hose reels, special preconnects and hoselays, and a hosebed configured for additional storage of personal equipment, extra water, and food to make life in the wildland area as easy as possible for firefighters.”

Smeal also uses severe-duty special approach bumpers on its wildland and urban-interface rigs that allow for up to a 23-degree angle of approach and departure depending on the model.

Typically, wildland apparatus have much larger water tanks in the Midwest, Konecky says, usually in the 1,000-gallon range. In the West, and especially California, a 750-gallon wildland tank would be large, he adds, with a 500-gallon tank being typical on Type 1 and Type 3 pumpers.

Konecky says that Smeal primarily builds Type 1 pumpers, often with pump-and-roll capabilities, as well as the recently introduced Rage Type 3 model, similar to the Cal Fire Model 34 wildland unit. “Our Type 3 Rage has an exclusive body mount that allows independent flexing of the subframe, body, and chassis,” Konecky says. “All our bodies are spring-mounted so they are flexible, and that improves the body longevity.”

Military Meets Fire

Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says his company has become the exclusive dealer in the fire market for an upgraded Ford chassis that he says “is the perfect chassis for a Type 6 wildland vehicle.” The new chassis, dubbed the 554 Extreme by Summit, is a version of the replacement chassis Ford is producing for the military Humvee.

“Grand Prairie Ford, in Texas, is the biggest exporter of chassis in the Ford system, and we’re representing this chassis for them in the fire market,” Messmer says. The 4×4 Ford F-550 chassis is beefed up with a Dana 80 12,000-pound front axle, a Dana 130 14,000-pound rear axle, and 44-inch Goodyear severe duty tires on 20×10 aluminum three-piece wheels.

Summit has built a demo Type 6 on the chassis in a two-door model, although a four-door cab is available. The chassis has a central tire inflation system that allows the operator to suck air out of the tires to make them softer and wider for better traction on nonpavement surfaces, as well as double calipers on the front wheels to increase the vehicle’s stopping ability. Its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 22,500 pounds.


Kelley points out that when fire departments consider an urban-interface or wildland apparatus, they should consider the tradeoffs that come with these vehicles, including wheelbase vs. water-carrying capacity, maneuverability vs. height, equipment storage vs. maneuverability, and pump size vs. pump-and-roll capability.

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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