New Technology, Standards Turning Apparatus Green

To meet the 2010 standards, engine manufacturers have developed complex systems that convert toxic pollutants into essentially harmless components.

Some departments are also deferring apparatus purchases for another five or six years, waiting to see what technology will usher in to replace the DPF and SCR systems. He's convinced that the current mechanics used to meet the standards are only a stop-gap measure until permanent solutions can be found.

Nevertheless, there are some fire departments that have the apparatus with the new technology on board and Bulygo said they ought to know how to operate it.

For instance, Bulygo recommends that firefighters not keep hitting a regeneration defeat switch that interrupts the high temperature run of the DPF which will, in the long run, clog up the device requiring expensive replacement. The defeat switch is largely for emergencies, such as when the truck is parked in a place where the high temperatures in the exhaust might cause damage or be dangerous, not just an inconvenience.

The SCR system also requires some attention too. Most diesel trucks need Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF) to run properly. DEF is a non-toxic liquid that's 32.5 percent urea in water that's dosed into the SCR at the rate of about 1.5 gallons for 50 gallons of diesel fuel. On-board tanks typically hold between 5 and 10 gallons of the solution.

DEF is sent into the SCR as a mist, breaking down into ammonia and creating a chemical reaction to oxidize with the NOx, breaking it down into nitrogen and water, two common and harmless components of the atmosphere in nature.

Bulygo, who is also a retired certified ASE Master Truck Technician with membership in many professional associations and numerous certifications, said firefighters will also need to keep up with the manufacturers' software updates for the engine's controls.

"All of the manufacturers have done a good job making this as workable as it can be," said Bulygo, who has more than 40 years experience in apparatus repair and maintenance.

"Did the air need to be cleaned up, sure," he said. "Does it require the kind of equipment we're mandated to have to do so? That's debatable."

While after-treatment of diesel exhaust has captured the attention of the fire service, there are other ways to clean up the air, or at least try to reduce the pollution produced.

While the bugs are being worked out, some manufacturers and departments are getting very creative about other ways to be compliant with the new standards and keep the environment green.

The Ocala, Fla., Fire Department added two 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles to its fleet this summer in an effort to save fuel and to make the department more environmentally efficient. The vehicles have been assigned to administrative staff.

According to the department, the hybrids are rated at 51 miles per gallon with the capability of automatically switching from gasoline to battery power.

"We are excited to put these vehicles into service, and it sends the right message to the community during these economic times," said Fire Chief Dan Gentry.

This year, apparatus builder Rosenbauer America, headquartered in Lyons, S.D., offered its green technology with apparatus equipped with Green Star technology.

Like one of the features on E-ONE's hybrid command vehicle, it's designed to reduce emissions by shutting off the main engine and providing alternative power to run the apparatus and any accessories and equipment that might be deployed at a scene.

The auxiliary power unit is a small generator that is able to power all of the apparatus accessories, including air conditioning and heating while automatically shutting down the apparatus' main power plant engine. By shutting off the main engine when it's not needed, emissions are reduced and fuel is conserved, according to Rosenbauer.

The maker's research shows that apparatus idle between 10 to 40 minutes on the scene of an average call while the big-block engines are consuming fuel at the rate of one gallon per hour and belching the equivalent in emissions. Green Star equipped apparatus burn fuel at the rate of one quart per hour, representing a savings of up to 75 percent, the company said. And, by shutting off the main engine, the costly emissions filters and regeneration systems in the exhaust system are preserved for times when the main engine must be running during pumping and on the road.