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Innovative Rigs on the Street: Nanjemoy's Brush Engine

Since the inception of the Innovative Rigs on the Street articles back in December, 2009 we have featured a number of pumpers, aerial devices and other vehicles which were designed to meet the specific needs of the local fire and emergency services. From large to small, these pieces of apparatus each have unique characteristics which make them stand out from the average fire truck. At times the individual designs and components are not readily apparent and are often hidden behind a compartment door or hose bed cover. In this installment we traveled to southern Maryland to review several unique pieces of apparatus operated by the Nanjemoy Fire Department.

Charles County is located approximately 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. and is home to over 146,000 residents with a land area of 461 square miles. The area is home to several large facilities including the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head and the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata. Fire protection and emergency medical services are provided by 12 fire departments and 14 rescue squads who respond to several thousand incidents each year with volunteer staffing. The Nanjemoy Fire Department operates as Station 4 in Charles County and is under the direction of Chief Doug Campbell.

The Response Area

The Nanjemoy area is a largely rural bounded by Potomac River on the west with County Routes 6 and 224 as the main routes of travel. The Nanjemoy fire station is located at 4260 Port Tobacco Road which is some 17 miles west of the county seat in La Plata. Because of this isolated location where mutual aid units from Marbury and La Plata are some distance away, the volunteers at Nanjemoy have, over the years, acquired a number of units which would allow them to sustain fire operations with their own resources.

Over the years the Nanjemoy Fire Department has operated with a number of apparatus that were designed specifically to meet the needs of their first-due area including a classic 1951 Ford F-7 model 4x4 pumper with Maxim bodywork, a 1965 Ford F-600/Young brush engine that would become the prototype for future units and a 1987 Ford F-600 4x4 brush unit that was one of the first water expansion pressure system (WEPS) apparatus built by 3-D Fire Apparatus. This vehicle was recently replaced with the current Brush 44 a 2010 Ford F-750 four-wheel drive chassis with custom bodywork built by Rosenbauer.

Due to the heavy concentration of brush, woods and county land areas in Nanjemoy the fire department has always maintained a compliment of several different types of brush and wildland apparatus. Other Nanjemoy apparatus includes Engine 41, a 2001 HME/Ferrara 1,500 gpm four-wheel drive pumper, Engine 42 operates a 1990 Duplex/3-D Fire 1,250 gpm pumper, Tanker 4 is a 1996 Peterbilt/US Tanker equipped with a 1,250 gpm pump and 3,000-gallon water tank as well as a 1999 Ford pickup which carries a brush skid unit and operates as Brush 5. Due to the expanse of waterways in the area the fire department operates 2008 Northwind Marine 30-foot boat equipped with a 3,000 gpm pump, twin deck monitors and other firefighting/rescue equipment. The department's newest engine, a 2011 Spartan/Rosenbauer pumper will be featured in a future Innovative Rigs article.

When the Nanjemoy Fire Department sought to replace their 1987 brush engine they had a good field of experience to draw from going back to their 1965 Ford/Young rig which was outfitted with a low profile tread plate body, power take-off driven fire pump and front mounted winch. The department's officers worked in conjunction with Ron Willett from DPC Emergency in Marydel, DE to carefully outline the design of the new Brush 44 which would be built on a Ford F-750 four-wheel drive chassis.

Brush 44 is built on a 158-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 23 feet 8 inches. The standard front end was modified with a 20-inch reinforced extension to support a Warn 15,000-pound electric winch, brush guard, mechanical siren and warning lights. Special attention was paid to keeping the overall height down to a minimum with additional brush guards installed at the rear of the body to protect scene and warning lights.

Firefighting Equipment

The firefighting package includes a Darley HM pump rated at 500 gpm together with an Odin Mongoose CAFS unit powered by a Kawasaki 28-horsepower engine. This unit supplies a Darley model 2BE pump rated at 70 gpm with the air compressor rated at 40-cfm. The apparatus is equipped with twin crosslay hosebeds for both 1-inch forestry hose and 1 3/4-inch hose, 2 1/2-inch discharges on each side of the unit and twin 200 foot booster reels. The apparatus is equipped with a 400-gallon water tank together with a 30-gallon Class A foam tank.

The lower portion of the aluminum extruded body was finished off with tread plate in areas subject to damage and scrapes with aluminum tread plate hosebed covers and a long tool storage compartment provided at the rear of the apparatus. Whelen LED warning lights were utilized for the cab-mounted light bar and other perimeter warning lights. Scene lighting is provided by a series of Fire Research fixed lights above the cab windshield, one on each side of the body and one at the rear body. Two telescopic pole lights were provided one on each side at the pump panel area to provide excellent lighting around the vehicle.

The high profile of the chassis and body enabled the brush unit to maintain a good angle of approach and departure to minimize any opportunity for the unit to get hung up when operating in off-road conditions. Pull out steps were installed around the body to assist in providing access to equipment including hard suction hose, hose reels and other equipment. Brush 44 is a well designed vehicle which can provide excellent service at any brush and wildland incident.

With this new unit, the Nanjemoy Fire Department, is providing the third generation of brush engine service to their first-due area and other locations in Charles County. The department was recently called to assist units from Prince George's County that were operating at the scene of a large mulch fire in Accokeek which showed the capabilities of the new Brush Engine 44. Don't let the slogan on the rear door mislead you as to the training and dedication of the members of the Nanjemoy Fire Department: "Down in the Sticks off Highway 6."

Appreciation is given to Mr. Jeff Hawkins of DPC Emergency Equipment who provided technical information for use in 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.