Innovative Rigs on the Street: North Bailey's Commercial Pumper

For many years fire apparatus were traditionally built on commercial chassis as they were readily available and could easily be adapted for different fire service applications. During World War II, with all manufacturing efforts designated to provide...


For many years fire apparatus were traditionally built on commercial chassis as they were readily available and could easily be adapted for different fire service applications. During World War II, with all manufacturing efforts designated to provide materials for our troops, very few municipal fire departments were able to acquire any type of new apparatus. Notable manufacturers like Maxim, Mack and Hahn together with both American and Ward La France turned out hundreds of fire apparatus built on commercial chassis to support the war efforts here at home and overseas. It was not until late in 1945 when American La France introduced their cab ahead of engine design with the 700 series model apparatus that fire departments began to acquire this style of custom cab apparatus, replacing conventional engine ahead units.

In several parts of our country where colder winter weather prevails many departments continue to prefer the conventional engine ahead design which allows the apparatus manufacturer to construct their own crew cab and body compartments on the chassis. Heavy duty International, Kenworth and Peterbilt chassis are often favored as they can provide a wide range of engine and chassis options to meet the needs of these departments at considerable cost savings over a full custom fire chassis.

The North Bailey Fire Department operates as one of several all volunteer organizations in the Town of Amherst, NY, which lies just north of Buffalo. The department today is under the command of Chief Dave Humbert and covers a 2.2-square-mile area of the township which is heavily built up with commercial strip malls, plazas, schools as well single-family homes. The department has a long history of operating with heavy duty commercial chassis for their apparatus including a 1974 Ford LS model 1,250-gpm pumper with Young bodywork and a 1980 Ford LS 1,250-gpm pumper built by Pierce which is assigned as Engine 2. While these pumpers had a longer wheelbase than a custom chassis unit, the setback front axle provided a reasonable turning radius for the apparatus.

The Department Today

The current fleet of North Bailey apparatus operates from a single station and consists of a 1993 Peterbilt model 377 chassis with bodywork by Custom Fire. Engine 3 is equipped with a 1,750-gpm pump with a 750-gallon water tank. Rescue 5 is a 1999 Peterbilt model 330 which is equipped with a walk-in crew area at the front of the body together with a fully compartmented rescue body which was also built by Custom Fire. The department operates a unique tractor drawn aerial ladder with an American La France 100-foot trailer that originally saw service with the Buffalo Fire Department. The tractor for Ladder 6 is a 1974 Ford L-800 model which was modified to accept the trailer. In addition the department operates an EMS first response unit and several chiefs vehicles.

When the department sought out to replace Engine 2 they carefully studied their response area and the types of equipment that would normally be utilized at an incident. After meeting several times with the department's apparatus committee they began to work closely with Mike McLaughlin from Empire Emergency Apparatus who represents Rosenbauer America.

The result of this planning was the delivery of a 2009 Rosenbauer General pumper built on a Peterbilt model 367 chassis. The 367 model chassis was built with a 10 3/4-inch frame with a full length liner incorporating a 20,000 pound rated front with a 30,000 pound rated rear axle. The unit is powered by a Caterpillar model C-15 engine rated at 435 horsepower through an Allison Generation IV model EVS-4000 five-speed automatic transmission. The apparatus is equipped with 16 1/2-inch by 7-inch brakes on both the front and rear axles together with a Caterpillar compression engine brake utilized for auxiliary braking. The Peterbilt cab was built with seating for two personnel with a bumper to back of cab dimension of 123 inches.

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