There is no doubt the United States is the most technologically advanced country in the world. Equally unquestionable is the fact the United States has the most aggressive interior structural firefighters in the world. However, the country's fire-related death, injury and dollar-loss rate is the...
To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
There is no doubt the United States is the most technologically advanced country in the world. Equally unquestionable is the fact the United States has the most aggressive interior structural firefighters in the world. However, the country's fire-related death, injury and dollar-loss rate is the worst in the world.
Is this a testament to the failure of fire prevention and fire safety education programs? Regardless, the public's neglect of fire safety increases fire department responses. Demands for the fire service to provide emergency medical services is placing further strain on manpower and the functional role fire apparatus must perform.
Photo by Bill Hattersley
The White Rock, British Columbia, Fire Department's Tower 16 is a Freightliner/Anderson 91-foot Bronto Skylift elevating platform with a 1,500-gpm pump and 250-gallon tank.
Despite America's leadership in technology, there appears to be a lack of major advancement in fire apparatus design. How proud we are of the coming of fully enclosed cabs, roll-up doors and sexless couplings. We hailed the innovation of large-diameter fire hose, the rear-mounted aerial ladder and the rear-mounted fire pump. Let us not forget our European counterparts were using these designs before World War II.
The mindset of "200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress" is archaic. It is time to plan intelligently for the future.
Granted, we have developed advanced foam systems, automatic nozzles, rescue tools and thermal imaging devices. Does our apparatus match up to the advances made in personal protective clothing, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), training and safety? What we appear to be lacking is how well we package our resources on our vehicles. For eons, the fire service has carte blanche accepted the apparatus designs presented by the manufacturers. Why?
The days of single-function apparatus, the traditional engine and ladder companies, are gone. Apparatus of the future will be serving dual and multi-function roles.
The transition has already started. Rural fire departments use combination pumper-tankers. St. Louis utilizes an all-quint concept. The trend on the West Coast is two-piece ladder companies, the aerial and a tender. Combination pumper-rescue trucks are commonplace. Will we see a return of the two-piece engine company? Will it be a downsized class A pumper with an expendable EMS squad car? Will it be a pumper and hose wagon? Perhaps the wagon will be a cost-effective, easily replaced hose carrier that also carries EMS equipment and other items we can't find room for on today's engines.
Will the mini-pumper return in its originally intended role as the first out unit for a two-piece engine company? Two-piece companies can work providing they operate together. Or, will we see the dual-function units evolve into huge pieces of overly long, overly wide and overweight pieces of iron trying to maneuver through our streets? Perhaps the fire service will again become the quasi-military organization it once was, and buy apparatus engineered for the weather and terrain of individual response areas.
Will custom-built and custom-designed apparatus be commonplace and the standard production line truck be one of the past? How innovative is the fire department that just purchased a new piece with the two standard 1 3/4-inch pre-connects, capped 2 1/2-inch discharges on each side and a minimum-sized hose bed? That reeks of the early '60s. Is your new fire truck reflective of how effectively you actually fight fires? The key should be in the packaging of the total product in a manner that emphasizes firefighter safety and ease of operation on the fireground. Apparatus must be designed to make better use of the most valuable resource our people. Place as much emphasis on design and engineering as you do on quality and workmanship.