Wintergreen Fire & Rescue

Wintergreen Fire & Rescue's Sutphen SP95 aerial platform
Wintergreen Fire & Rescue’s Sutphen SP95 aerial platform is built on a Monarch cab and chassis. (Wintergreen Fire & Rescue Photo)

Officials at Wintergreen Fire & Rescue in a resort area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia adopted an unconventional approach to buying an aerial platform. They selected the manufacturer before they developed the specifications – and they chose Sutphen.

“Forget about the truck or the price at that point,” said Chief Curtis Sheets. “The focus was on who we wanted to be in a relationship with.”

To determine that, he said the department took advantage of the expertise of three retired engineers who are members of the Wintergreen Property Owners Association, which funds the department.

But first, he said, “We put the word out on the street that we were going to buy a truck.” Interested vendors were invited to send demonstrator trucks that were put through a performance course. Five companies responded, he said, and the field was narrowed to three, based on the performance review.

The three finalists were asked to submit proposals explaining why they wanted to do business with Wintergreen, he said. Then the engineer property owners were sent to the manufacturing plants to assess their operations. Each engineer spent two days at each of the three plants before writing independent reports. They all recommended Sutphen.

Breaking Away

Sheets, who has a master’s degree in business administration, said the property owner’s association told him they wanted the fire department run as a business when they appointed him chief. He said he had seen other departments go into purchasing with a predisposition, writing bid specs with proprietary requirements, narrowing the funnel down to one vendor.

“I wanted to break away from that entirely so that’s why we came up with the system of using owner/engineers,” he said.

Once Sutphen was selected, he said members of the department and Sutphen’s representatives got together and put the specs on paper for a 2008 SP95 aerial platform, which was bought for $750,006.

Funding came from a $450,000 no-interest loan from Nelson County, where the department is located, and the balance from Wintergreen property owner assessments.

The county government helped because the Sutphen would be the only aerial in the county and important for protecting schools and a new court complex.

The Wintergreen resort is private, but functions as a quasi-governmental organization in an unincorporated area that has 60 miles of paved roads and requires two stations for two major inhabited areas. Travel time between the two stations is 20 minutes.

Just getting out of one of the stations can be difficult. “We have a 15-degree departure angle so we were not able to put climbing rails on the aerial because the front axle is climbing quickly while the rear axels are still in the building,” Sheets said. “Climbing rails would have collided with the top of the open door.”

Two-Stage Pumps

He said department officials hoped a 75-foot aerial would meet their needs, but continued development and the danger of forest fires played a role in selecting a 95-foot model.

The resort area is a natural preserve and trees cannot be cut without permission. As a result, he said homes don’t have lawns surrounding them.

“The Virginia Department of Forestry has identified us as the biggest at-risk community in the Commonwealth for forest fires,” he said. “It’s all natural, and that means the defensible space is minimized.”

As a result, he said, the department had geared most of its resources toward wildland issues. “But now we’re changing,” he said. “We have 24 high-rise condos being built. By the time you put roofs on them, you’re looking at 60 feet, so this aerial became a necessity.”

The department’s entire fleet is equipped with two-stage pumps and deck guns. “A single-stage could handle the four-story structures,” Sheets said. “But because we don’t allow cutting of mature trees, we frequently find ourselves lobbing water over the structures to reach the trees. Pressure equals distance.”

The Sutphen has a stainless steel body. Aluminum would have been lighter and less expensive, but the chief said, “Because we are a ski resort, we want cars to be able to come while it is snowing. This means tons of road salt and stainless seems to hold up best.”

Seating in the Sutphen’s cab was reduced from six to four with the other positions replaced with EMS compartments. “We’re not a big city department so we’re not staffed like one,” he said.

The new aerial has 2,000-gpm Hale pump, a 500-gallon tank and a 515-hp engine. “I would buy a 1,000 horsepower engine if I could get it,” Sheets said. “There are several steep places on property where the truck cannot exceed 15 miles per hour.”

In addition to operating out of its own stations, Wintergreen has a contract with the county that it is responsible for all EMS services in the county for 65 hours per week. During that time, the department staffs a third station in the center of the county.

Wintergreen Fire & Rescue is rated at Class 4 by ISO, which evaluates fire protection throughout the United States. Chief Sheets expects a Class 3 rating soon due to the addition of the Sutphen aerial. “We also need some improvements to our water delivery system, such as color coding hydrants, and we need to make some changes to our record keeping,” he said. “But I think we’re close to an ISO Class 3 right now.”

The Sutphen was delivered on July 3 and went in-service on Oct. 15.

Ron Garber, owner of Fire Apparatus Sales, Inc., in Staunton, Va., was the sales representative.

2008 Sutphen SP95 mid-mount aerial platform


  • 252-inch wheelbase
  • 9 feet, 10 inches high
  • 47 feet, 2 inches long


  • Sutphen Monarch stainless steel cab and chassis
  • 22,000 pound front axle rating
  • 44,000 pound tandem rear axle rating
  • Detroit Diesel Series 60, 515-hp engine with engine brake
  • Allison 4000EVS transmission with retarder
  • 17-inch front disc brakes, oversized rear brakes
  • Aluminum mid-mount 95-foot aerial platform
  • Enclosed pre-piped waterway supplying two turrets
  • Supplied breathable air to three platform ports
  • Three 500-watt platform floodlights

Pumping Features

  • Hale Q2 MAX 2,000-gpm
  • 500-gallon tank
  • 20-gallon FoamPro system
  • Large 4-color LED light strip tank level indicators on both sides of cab
  • Elkhart Brass Vulcan RF monitor
  • Standard manual turret with stacked tips
  • 5-inch rear suction
  • 2.5-inch rear discharge

Other features

  • 10,000-watt Onan hydraulic generator
  • Eight R.O.M. roll-up doors plus two EMS cabinets
  • Two high-side compartments on the driver’s side, one with a hinged tool board
  • Rear compartment beneath hose bed with a six-foot roll-out tray
  • Two additional roll out trays
  • Transverse storage area beneath rear seats in the cab big enough for two SCBA pack bags
  • Whelen LED lights
  • Roof-mounted 1,000-watt flood light
  • 750-watt telescoping scene light

Wintergreen Fire & Rescue

Strength: 21 career members and 15 volunteers out of two stations plus a third station for county coverage; fire and rescue staffs are cross trained.

Service area: 11,000-acre private resort with 4,000 property owners, 3,000 structures, $2 billion in real estate; part-time county EMS responsibility.

Other apparatus: 2003 Seagrave engine; 1996 Seagrave engine; 1988 Seagrave engine; 1990 Ford Allegheny attack; 1981 Seagrave engine; 1978 Mack tanker; 2002 Ford/Custom brush truck; 1997 Chevy Tahoe quick response; Wildfire support trailer with ATV; 2003 Chevy Trailblazer ALS QRV; 2006 Chevy ALS ambulance; 1990/Summit heavy rescue; 2007 Chevy ALS ambulance; 2002 Chevy C3500 ALS McCoy Miller ambulance; 2007 Chevy ALS ambulance; 2002 Chevy Trailblazer ALS QRV.

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