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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Smeal said that 90% to 95% of all the apparatus his company builds have pumps installed, including aerials. Even its multi-purpose urban interface apparatus has a Class A-rated pump with an auxiliary pump to give it pump-and-roll capabilities. This spring, Smeal will also be building unique Type III apparatus for wildland operations, he said, noting that a lot of innovations come from customers. "They'll see something they like that someone else is doing, or come up with ideas of their own and we do what we can to help them get what they want."

According to Rosenbauer's Oyen, what people want is the ability to do more with less.

"There's a lot of concern in departments over manpower," Oyen said. That's why pumper tankers are popular. "Departments want to be able to roll with three people in the cab, with a pump and plenty of water so they can get operations at least started."

And the same is true with the Roadrunner, Oyen said. Aerial need staff, as do the pumper/engines, but with an elevated master stream with a full Class A pump, firefighters are able to do more with less staff, he said.

Oyen said one of the keys to making apparatus multi-purpose is to use all the available space and use of available truck "real estate" can make apparatus more versatile. He said Rosenbauer apparatus typically have Class A pumps, but where they are placed can be negotiated. Rear-mount pumps often lead to improved compartments space and even kicking the pump off to one side or moving it to non-traditional locations can free up space used for another purpose.

That's the premise for Crimson Fire's FRAC and Transformer apparatus, said Doebler. Using every inch of the apparatus is critical to making it multi-functional. The Europeans have learned how to use every bit of space on apparatus, Doebler said.

"Not one inch is wasted," Doebler said. He predicted as much as 30% of the new items introduced at Intershutz Fire Rescue show this summer in Hannover, Germany, will make its way to North America within the next five years.

"There's a desire for apparatus that offers the total solution," he said. "We are always looking for the next big thing."

One person who was at the Intershutz show this year, which happens once every five years, was Saulsbury. He is scheduled to present his thoughts and findings at the Firehouse World 2011 exhibition and training conference in San Diego, CA, Feb. 26 to March 2. Titled "The Future Impact on U.S. Fire Apparatus with Innovations from Intershutz and Around the World," the presentation will look at what's new in apparatus, from 300-foot aerials to ultra-high-pressure pumps to "compact" multi-purpose rescue pumpers.

Saulsbury said nearly every apparatus in other parts of the world are multi-purpose units. "Every vehicle has to do more than one job," he said.

Even in this country, Saulsbury said, apparatus with the sole mission of fire suppression is becoming scarce. "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.

Today, Saulsbury said, 50% to 75% of all engines sold are considered rescue pumpers with lots of compartment space with rescue tools, light towers and a variety of other equipment historically dedicated to other apparatus.

There's a trend suggesting apparatus has become more and more versatile over the years, a trend that is worldwide, Saulsbury said. Apparatus in the United States are coming increasingly influenced by European designs and Saulsbury said that trend will continue, especially as NFPA becomes more accepting of overseas designs.

"The apparatus we see today is much like what the Europeans were doing in the '70s and '80s," Saulsbury said, noting he hopes the barriers keeping European designs out of the U.S. will begin to relax, giving firefighters in the U.S. more selection creating multi-purpose apparatus to help them do their jobs.

"Apparatus, worldwide, is evolving, with PTO pumps coming on, rear-mount pumps, compact designs and Bronto-style aerial devices," Saulsbury said. "And it's coming to the states as well."

ED BALLAM, a staff writer for Firehouse.com, is a firefighter with the Haverhill Corner, NH, Fire Department, a nationally certified EMT, and holds certifications in emergency vehicle operations and pump operations.