Firehouse® Roundtable: Multi-Purpose Apparatus

  When the economy is weak, or faltering, as it has been for the past couple of years, people try to cut back and make what they have go further and do more. There's no exception when it comes to fire apparatus. As the economy continues to...


  When the economy is weak, or faltering, as it has been for the past couple of years, people try to cut back and make what they have go further and do more. There's no exception when it comes to fire apparatus. As the economy continues to wring the life out of the fire service and...


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When the economy is weak, or faltering, as it has been for the past couple of years, people try to cut back and make what they have go further and do more. There's no exception when it comes to fire apparatus.

As the economy continues to wring the life out of the fire service and staffing, communities squeeze more out of the equipment they purchase. That's why there seems to be a huge surge in the manufacturing and interest in multi-purpose apparatus.

While apparatus that has more than one use is not a new concept, as quints, rescue engines and pumper tankers have been around for years, it seems communities are becoming more particular when it comes to their apparatus needs and looking to manufacturers to become more and more innovative with their apparatus designs.

This is the first article in a series planned for 2011 on apparatus-related topics by Firehouse® Magazine and Firehouse.com. For expanded coverage, including photos and audio podcasts, go to http://www.firehouse.com/0111-apparatus.

"With the economic constraints we're now under, people are trying to get more bang for the buck," said Bryan Smeal, regional sales director for Smeal Fire Apparatus in Snyder, NE. "They are looking to combine vehicles. If they're looking at a pumper and a rescue, maybe they'll start thinking about combining those and not replacing the rescue."

The numbers seem to bear witness to that concept. Apparatus manufacturers have seen a steady decline in the number of units purchased annually. According to figures from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 6,102 apparatus were sold in 2008 and 4,200 in 2009. And from anecdotal information from manufacturers, it appears that 2010 will tally in at 10% less than 2009 and another double-digit dip is predicted for 2011.

"It's unprecedented," said Bill Doebler, vice president of sales and marketing for Crimson Fire, an apparatus maker in Brandon, SD, of the apparatus sales slowdown. "I've been in this business 21 years and I've never seen anything like this."

Alan Saulsbury, a fire service marketing consultant in Homer, NY, has been in the fire service for at least 40 years and he too said he has not experienced this kind of slump in apparatus sales.

"People say it's like this, or like that, but they're wrong," said Saulsbury, who was once a maker of apparatus under his namesake label. "We have never experienced anything like this and 2011 is going to be even worse."

To prop up sales, or even increase them, manufacturers have come up with clever ways to help clients "get more bang for the buck."

Crimson Fire, for one, 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 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 with its many variations of the PUC (Pierce Ultimate Configuration) designed primarily to make apparatus multi-functional and easier to use.

Ferrara Fire Apparatus has its MVP, a line of apparatus with "multi" built into it — Multi Vocational Pumper. The apparatus, which can be configured as a pumper, 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?' "

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