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The past few installments of The Apparatus Architect reviewed some history of cab design and the most recent innovations that have led to improved vehicle performance and increased safety for personnel.
Given current economic conditions, many fire departments are unable to take advantage of these technological advances as budgets for capital projects have been reduced to the point where new apparatus purchases are being put off. On the positive side, some departments have upgraded their fleets with single- or multiple-unit purchases by using alternative funding methods and strategic planning to promote the need for new apparatus.
The Freeland Fire Department in Luzerne County, PA, protects the Borough of Freeland and surrounding communities with a fleet of two engines, a ladder truck and a utility support unit. The department was formed in 1989 as a result of a consolidation of two fire companies that dated back to 1883. The department has in the past operated custom-chassis apparatus, including several four-wheel-drive pumpers that provided access to the hilly terrain areas in the first-due area during winter weather.
The department relies heavily on local fundraising to support operations and apparatus purchases. Unlike many locations where the fire department is fully tax supported, the volunteer members in Freeland are justifiably proud of their apparatus, which are largely funded from contributions and fundraising activities. These efforts have resulted in well-designed engine apparatus that have provided many years of reliable service. As an example, the new Engine 55, a 2011 KME Predator Panther pumper, replaced a 1974 FWD pumper that had more fire-attack capability than many new apparatus.
Years of planning
The apparatus fleet is under the guidance of Chief Engineer Cal Herring, who is responsible for the maintenance and testing of Freeland’s units. Over the years, the department has operated four different used aerial ladder units that were extensively rebuilt and modified for its use. The new Engine 55 is a result of several years of planning with the department’s apparatus committee, after visiting several manufacturers’ facilities and evaluating new apparatus deliveries in the area.
Particular attention was made to reviewing the fire pump piping arrangement with a 2,000-gpm fire pump to ensure that each of the nine pre-connected attack lines would provide the required gpm flow with minimal friction loss. Before placing the engine into service, each discharge was flow tested using department hose and smooth-bore nozzles ranging in size from one inch to 1¼ inch to verify friction loss and required pump pressure.
Engine 55 is built on a wheelbase of 193 inches with an overall length of 32 feet, five inches and carries a 750-gallon water tank. Coordination between the apparatus committee and KME provided for a well-designed engine that carries a full complement of engine company equipment, including a pre-piped Stang gun and two tailboard-mounted portable ground monitors. The Freeland Fire Department uses two-inch hose for attack lines, with Engine 55 carrying 1,700 feet of five-inch supply line together with several 150-foot, three-inch setback lines equipped with a water thief.
Located in Lancaster County, PA, the Manheim Township Fire Rescue Department was formed in June 2007 combining the resources of three independent fire companies. Before consolidation of the Eden, Neffsville and Southern Manheim fire companies, each organization purchased new apparatus with a large amount of private fundraising needed for each unit. A strategic plan was developed and approved in August 2009 that in part laid the groundwork for an initiative to provide for new pumpers that would be set up identically, including a dedicated reserve engine.