The Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines the word progressive in the following terms: “Making use of or interested in new ideas, findings or opportunities.” Since the inception of the Innovative Rigs on the Street articles back in December 2009, we have attempted to feature apparatus that have some distinctive, unique features that were designed to meet the needs of the local fire and emergency service organization.
If there is one constant that occurs as a result of our travels it’s that some of the most progressive-designed apparatus can be found in smaller communities where you might not expect to find them. As with many fire departments, the need to adapt to meet the needs of the local community while facing budgetary limitations seems to only enhance the capabilities that are designed into rebuilt and new fire apparatus. One such progressive department can be found in Freeland, PA, which lies just east of Interstate 81 between Wilkes-Barre and Hazelton in Luzerne County. During the early 20th century, coal mining was the principle industry and today the borough has a population of 3,600 residents.
About The Department
The department, under the command of Chief Joseph Stepansky, operates with two engines, a ladder truck and a utility support vehicle from one station. During 2011, the department responded to 280 incidents protecting the Borough of Freeland and surrounding communities. The Freeland Fire Department history goes back to 1989 when two independent fire companies that served the borough were merged together in an effort to improve fire protection services.
Over the years, Freeland has operated with a number of interesting pieces of apparatus including its first custom pumper in 1945 with the delivery a Seagrave 750 gpm unit equipped with a 250-gallon water tank. Due to the high elevation and topography in the area, in later years the department acquired several pumpers built by the FWD Corporation that featured four-wheel drive capabilities. The last of these units, a 1974 FWD pumper assigned as Engine 53, served the department until this past year when it was replaced by a KME Predator Panther model pumper.
Current apparatus include a 1992 Seagrave JB model 2,000 gpm pumper operating as Engine 54, a 1980 Seagrave WB model 100-foot rear-mount aerial that was rebuilt by Seagrave during 2005 and 2004 Ford F-550 four-door cab chassis equipped with a Four Guys body that carries support equipment. The latest acquisition, Engine 55 was placed into service in August 2011 after many months of research and planning by the department. Under the direction of Chief Engineer Cal Herring, the department had sought bid proposals from several manufacturers and ultimately chose to work with KME Fire Apparatus to build the replacement pumper for Engine 53, which had served the department for an amazing 37 years.
Engine 55 is built on a 193-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 32 feet, 5 inches. Maneuverability and turning radius was extremely important as many of the streets in the borough and surrounding areas are narrow and provide limited access. The size of this pumper, however, does not limit its fireground capabilities. The apparatus is equipped with a Waterous CSU fire pump rated at 2,000 gpm and carries 750 gallons of water.
Most significantly, the engine is outfitted with nine preconnected attack lines, which enable this one apparatus to deliver a potent fireground punch when being supplied with some of the 1,700 feet of 5-inch supply line. A 3-inch front bumper discharge supplies a gated wye equipped with a 100-foot 2-inch attack line. The crosslay hose bed arrangement is comprised of two 150-foot long 2-inch attack lines together with a 150-foot preconnected 3-inch line outfitted with a water thief for use as a leader or set back line.