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Innovative Rigs on the Street: Paxtang’s Short Wheelbase Pumper

The Paxtang Fire Company operates as Company 40 in the Dauphin County, PA, fire service and is under the command of Chief Todd Zwigart. The fire company annually responds to more than 400 alarms in the borough of Paxtang as well as neighboring departments on a first-alarm basis. Paxtang, a suburb of Harrisburg, covers less than one square mile with a population of approximately 1,600 residents. The all volunteer fire company operates from a station located at 34232 Derry Street that houses a single-piece engine company and heavy rescue.

Early motorized apparatus include a classic 1947 Ward LaFrance type 85 open cab pumper. Due to the proximity of the Mack factory branch in Harrisburg, the department operated with several Mack engines including a classic 1964 C model 1000 gpm pumper, which in later years was modified with crosslay hose beds and a Conestoga style hose bed cover. Resembling FDNY pumpers of that era, a deck gun was mounted on the cab roof and supplied by several 3-inch lines. In 1980, the fire company took delivery of a Mack CF 1250 gpm pumper equipped with a 500-gallon water tank. Engine 40 was rebuilt in 1998 and was equipped with a four-door cab, roof-mounted deck gun, multiple attack lines and upgraded warning lights. This unit served the department until earlier this year when it was replaced by a Pierce Arrow XT pumper.

Past rescue apparatus operated by the department include a Chevy chassis with a small walk-in utility body and a 1974 Ford C model chassis with a walk-in body built by the Swab Wagon Company of nearby Elizabethville. The current Squad 40 is a 1994 non-walk-in rescue body built on a HME four-door cab chassis. While earlier apparatus sported a unique white- and red-banded paint scheme, the current apparatus are painted white over red with yellow reflective stripping.

When the department set out to develop specifications for a new pumper, an apparatus committee was formed and over a period of several years interviewed a number of manufacturer’s representatives and traveled to see a number of new apparatus deliveries. After the bidding process, the department chose to award the contract for the new Engine 40 to Pierce Manufacturing. After many meetings with Pierce representative Cyle Sheaffer, the committee was able to refine the design for the apparatus, which resulted in the delivery of a new Arrow XT pumper in the spring of 2011.

Engine 40 is built on a wheelbase of 180.5 inches with an overall length of just 30 feet, 3 inches. The response district in Paxtang and the greater Harrisburg area consists of many row homes with narrow rear alley’s, which makes a short wheelbase pumper particularly advantageous. The overall height at the rear of the body is 117 inches with the rear hose bed being approximately 70 inches from the ground. The aluminum cab provides seating for six personnel with five seats equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). For enhanced safety, the engine is equipped with Tak-4 independent front suspension together with both front and side airbags.

The apparatus is equipped with a front axle rated at 22,800 pounds together with a Meritor rear axle rated at 24,000 pounds. Braking is provided by EX225 disc brakes on the front and S-cam 16.5 x 7-inch brakes on the rear with a Jacobs engine brake for auxiliary braking capability. Engine 40 is powered by a Cummins ISL engine rated at 425 horsepower with an Allison EVS-3000 automatic transmission. The front tires are Goodyear G-296, 425/65R22.5 size with Goodyear G-622, 12R22.5 size for the rear.

The front bumper is a reinforced steel design, extended 19 inches from the cab front. A 5-inch front suction, together with a 2-inch trash line with two hose wells, is provided. A convex cross view mirror allows the driver to clearly see the right front corner of the apparatus. The rear cab exterior wall was used to mount two roof hooks and pike poles on each side in custom-built brackets.

The fire pump is a Hale QMax single stage rated at 1500 gpm with all stainless steel piping. Each of the side inlets are provided with externally mounted piston intake valves, which allow 5-inch preconnected suction lines. Discharges include one 2-inch front trash line and four 2-inch crosslay, each carrying 200 feet of 1.75 hose. The crosslay discharges are extended to the outside of each bed, which permits rapid extension of these lines when required. Two 2.5-inch discharges are provided at the left-side panel with one 2.5-inch and one 4-inch LDH discharge on the right side.

Four 2.5-inch rear hose body discharges are provided, which supply a 300-foot, 3-inch line equipped with a Task Force Blitz Fire gun, 200 feet of 2.5-inch attack line with a smooth bore nozzle, a 300-foot 2-inch attack line and a 200-foot 2.5-inch attack line. Other hose carried includes 1,200 feet of 5-inch supply line and 300 feet of spare 3-inch hose for use as a leader line. A top-mounted deck gun is supplied by a 3-inch discharge with a portable Task Force Crossfire monitor carried in the rear body compartment.

The aluminum body is 140 inches long and has six enclosed body compartments with full depth compartments provided on the left side of the body. The forward body compartment is reverse hinged to permit ready access to tool and appliances for the operator. Two upper body compartments, each approximately 58 inches long and 21 inches wide, provide additional storage space. The L-shaped 500-gallon water tank provides a low rear hose bed with a 50-gallon Class B foam cell.

A Harrison 8Kw hydraulic generator supplies power to four Fire Research Focus 500-watt lights mounted on the cab and body and one Hannay electric cable reel. Whelen model PSTANK LED lights are provided on each side of the cab to monitor water tank levels.

The warning-light package consists of a three roof-mounted Whelen Freedom LED light bars on the cab roof with two Mars lights and a roto ray light mounted on the front of the cab. Whelen 600 Super LED lights are located around the apparatus with Whelen LED beacon lights mounted at the rear body corners.

Ground ladders are mounted above the lower body compartments on the right side. They consist of a two section 24-foot extension ladder, 14-foot roof ladder, and 10-foot folding ladder with a 10-foot pike pole. Two lengths of 10-foot hard sleeve are carried above the ground ladders with standpipe packs mounted in an aluminum tread plate box below the ladders.

The Paxtang Fire Company had to wait some 30 years to replace their venerable Mack CF pumper, however, the result was a very well designed and equipped Pierce Arrow XT pumper. While the Mack provided many years of reliable service, the new Engine 40 is outfitted with nine preconnected attack lines together with three master stream appliances, which allows the apparatus to make a good accounting of itself on the fireground.

Appreciation is extended to Fire Chief Todd Zwigart and Cyle Sheaffer, who provided information for this article.

TOM SHAND is a 37-year veteran of the fire service having served with departments in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. He has worked in the fire apparatus industry since 1985, including 15 years with Saulsbury Fire Apparatus. He is a contributing editor to Fire Apparatus Journal and Firehouse Magazine and works with Mike Wilbur at Emergency Vehicle Response. He co-hosts the Apparatus Architects podcast with Wilbur, based on their column in Firehouse Magazine.