20 Years Of Service

Then & Now Apparatus: 1974 Maxim aerial 1996 Pierce aerial platform Weight: 46,000 pounds 70,000 pounds Height:  10 feet, 4 inches 11 feet, 5 inches Wheel base: 200 inches 263 inches...


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Firefighter safety has improved dramatically over the past 20 years. In comparing the two apparatus, the new unit features a fully enclosed cab capable of carrying more firefighters safely. Apparatus have reflective trim and audible warning devices are mounted on the bumper of the apparatus instead of on the roof. The aerial ladder is stronger, holding more weight on the tip, flowing more water in pre-piped waterway, at lower elevations, within the safety of a bucket. In the bucket there is breathing air, lighting and a handline for additional safety. Onboard generators provide expanded lighting capabilities to enhance nighttime safety. Retarders, automatic chains and heated mirrors are just some of the options available to increase driving safety.

Several key factors will make the safe arrival of new apparatus a formidable challenge. As shown here, apparatus are generally longer, higher, heavier and faster than they have ever been before. Combine this knowledge with the fact that many fire departments own more apparatus then they did 20 years ago. The apparatus is going on more responses, over roads that have not been substantially improved. And now the roads are more congested with motorists who fail to grant us the right of way. If this is not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is. Twenty years ago, we were probably the least likely to be sued or to be regulated; today, the opposite is true.

It appears we have come full circle. In 1936, the McQuoid Engine and Ladder Company purchased a 1936 Seagrave Quad. Ironically, some of the points raised in 1936 cost ($15,033), large pumping capacity (1,250 gpm) and long wheel base (265 inches) are still being ovoiced 60 years later.

The challenge for the fire service leading into the next century is to empower firefighters with more knowledge and training. We at Firehouse have strived to provide this knowledge and training in the past 20 years. We take this commitment very seriously and look forward to providing the fire service with the best training and education opportunities into the next century and beyond. Happy anniversary, Firehouse!


Michael Wilbur, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is an FDNY lieutenant in Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx and a firefighter in the Howells, NY, Fire Department. He is an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science and the Orange County Fire Training Center. Wilbur has developed and presented emergency vehicle operator courses throughout the country and has consulted on a variety of fire apparatus issues.