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.

One manufacturer has gone in a completely different direction when it comes to green technology and has employed a previously untapped fuel for powering apparatus - compressed natural gas (CNG).

Earlier this year, HME Ahrens-Fox introduced a pumper with a Cummins Westport CNG-powered 8.9-liter engine producing 320 horsepower and 1,000-foot torque. That's plenty to power up to a 1,500-gpm fire pump.

The CNG-fired pumper meets, or exceeds the EPA 2010 emission requirements as well as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) 2010 standards without the need for Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) or Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system that diesel engines require, according to Dave Fornell, HME Ahrens Fox's director of marketing.

Fornell said the apparatus is not only clean; it's also quiet with lots of acceleration.

As the nation's apparatus fleet continues to be retired from service, more and more apparatus with DEF and regeneration systems will be integrated into departments' frontlines.

Engine and apparatus manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make those systems reliable and user friendly. In most apparatus and diesel-power trucks, the adding of DEF is no more complicated than adding washer fluid. Simply pouring the non-toxic, colorless, odorless fluid into an on-board tank is typically all that's required from firefighters and operated. Depending on the size of the fuel tank and the size of the DEF tank, its typically refilled at no more than once per tank full, sometimes much less.

The only other thing that firefighters need to worry about is high exhaust temperatures when the apparatus goes into a regeneration mode - a process where the filters and exhaust system operates at a much higher temperature to burn off the emissions trapped in the system and convert them into water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen which are less harmful the environment than NOx which is a prime ingredient in smog.

Like many things in the fire service, the DEF and SCR will take time to be accepted by the firefighters and those who maintain apparatus. The time is now, however, for that embrace to happen because the deadline for compliance is here and departments will no longer be able to purchase new apparatus that is non-compliant.

"I don't believe there will be any huge problems as long as the firefighters get the training they need on how to use it and the individual (departments) get the updates on the software as needed," Bulygo said. "…The atmosphere needs to be cleaned up. That's where we're going and there's going to be more design changes to meet the standard. For now, we'll have to make do with what we've got."