Editor's Note: This article is part of a continuing series on fire apparatus maintenance and design found within Firehouse Magazine and Firehouse.com. For more on multi-functional vehicles you can view the "Firehouse Roundtable: Multi-Purpose Apparatus" feature starting on page 46 of the January issue of Firehouse Magazine.
When it comes to multi-purpose apparatus, the rest of the world is way ahead of the United States, according to experts.
One such person who subscribes to that philosophy is Alan Saulsbury, a fire service marketing consultant from Homer, N.Y. Saulsbury, who is also a former apparatus builder, has been in the business for more than 40 years. Last summer, he went to the 2010 Intershutz Fire Rescue show in Hannover, Germany, the world's largest fire service trade show that convenes every five years.
From his experience at that worldwide apparatus showcase, Saulsbury learned that nearly every fire truck in other parts of the planet is multi-purpose.
In Europe, Asia and other parts of the world, compact, multi-purpose pumpers rule and Saulsbury sees that day happening here in North America.
"A unit with a 500-gallon tank and a 1,000-gallon pump and a booster reel is a rare, rare animal today," said Saulsbury, remarking about what was once the bread-and-butter apparatus of the fire service.
New Apparatus Designs Coming to U.S.
The world's approach to apparatus seems to make sense in the United States given the dire straits of the nation's economy. Fire departments are laying off firefighters by the hundreds and many are finding it difficult to justify spending big dollars on specialized apparatus.
"It's unprecedented," said Bill Doebler, vice president of sales and marketing for Crimson Fire, an apparatus maker in Brandon, S.D., of the apparatus sales slowdown. "I've been in this business 21 years and I've never seen anything like this."
To help departments meet the needs, or demands economic conditions have placed upon them, manufacturers have come up with new designs to help clients get more for less.
Crimson has come up with three new multi-purpose apparatus, including a rescue pumper with patient transport capabilities, a rescue pumper with an innovative pump location to increase cabinet space and a lower-cost aerial device to help departments afford elevated master streams compared to full-blown aerial devices.
Smeal Fire Apparatus in Snyder, Neb., developed a Class A pumper with an auxiliary pump to provide pump and roll capability for urban interface applications.
And others have joined the fray too - Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wis., with its many variations of the PUC (Pierce Ultimate Configuration) designed primarily to make apparatus multi-functional and easier to use.
Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Holden, La., has its MVP line of apparatus with multi built into it - Multi Vocational Pumper. The apparatus, which can be configured as a pumper, a rescue pumper or aerial, has additional compartments and layout to serve many purposes on fire and accidents scenes. The company's tag line for the apparatus is "one look at all the equipment this truck carries and you will ask yourself, "how many trucks does our department need to carry all of this?"
Rosenbauer, with plants in Lyons, S.D. and Wyoming, Minn., has been making pumper tankers for many years and recently came up with an apparatus called the Roadrunner, which is a pumper with a Rosenbauer-made elevated master stream.
The aerial-like device is available in 51- and 68-foot heights. It is designed, primarily, as an engine but with the ability to flow water through an elevated master stream and still have the advantages of an aerial, or telescoping booms, but on an easier to maneuver wheelbase. The company calls it a water tower with a fire service grade ladder attached, yet with a 500-pound tip load while flowing up to 1,250 gpm.
"The cost of ownership is much less with the Roadrunner, compared to a conventional aerial," said Scott Oyen, the Vice President of Sales for Rosenbauer's South Dakota plant.