Where Are We Going With Fire Apparatus?

William E. Adams describes the various changes that fire apparatus have gone through over the decades and their effects on firefighters.


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...


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  1. Always check your belts at least once a year for wear and cracking. All belts should be changed a minimum of once every two years.
  2. Departments in northern climates must make sure fuel suppliers have shipped the proper winterized fuel for their states. This will prevent jelling. The winterized fuel will usually carry a 1-D specification and have a lower volumetric heat content than the standard 2-D fuel. Using 1-D fuel will reduce engine output by as much as 5 percent; however, this should be a small price to pay to avoid trouble in cold operation periods. (Note: If you use any additives in your fuel, it is recommended to first check with your engine manufacturer.)
  3. A complete fluid change is STRONGLY recommended at least yearly. This should include all filters, engine oil, transmission fluid, rear axle oil, transfer case pump transmissions, etc. Improper oil and grease lubricants are the major cause of premature failure. All components have different lubricants; you should check your owner's manual or contact each specific manufacturer for recommendations.
  4. All radiators must be checked with a refractometer anti-freeze tester. Most engine manufacturers recommend that the coolant be changed at least every two years. Check with your specific engine manufacturer to avoid any damage to your engine and the possibility of voiding your warranty. Ask the engine manufacturer if you need a low- or high- silicate anti-freeze. The system should be pressure tested for leaks or damage. Remove the thermostat, clean and check for proper operation. Always make sure that the front of the radiator is clean and free of debris.
  5. All brake components should be regularly inspected and adjusted if necessary.
  6. Inspect all suspension components.
  7. Inspect tires, check for wear, cuts, etc. Check lug nuts and if you use tire chains, now is the time to check them carefully.
  8. Replace windshield wiper blades, fill windshield wiper washer reservoir and make sure they are working properly.
  9. Check the heater and defroster to make sure they are in good working condition.
  10. Check all air tanks for moisture and drain if necessary.
  11. Inspect all electrical connectors for corrosion. Make sure all connectors are tight.
  12. Inspect the cab and body for any loose or hanging wires. Oil and lubricate all doors.
  13. Check the air cleaner and all of the air intake seals to make sure they are clean and properly fitted.

(Courtesy of Joe Williams, Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association)


William E. Adams, an active volunteer firefighter since 1962, is an ex-chief of the East Rochester, NY, Fire Department. He is employed as an independent fire apparatus dealer.