Apparatus Manufacturers Discuss Multi-Purpose Units

Editor's Note: Firehouse Staff Writer Ed Ballam covered this article in the November issue of Firehouse Magazine and for the November edition of the Firehouse Limited Edition Tablet app. There was a time when parade apparatus was king in fire...

"Technology is available in industry and agricultural equipment and it’s being adopted for the fire industry," Harstad said. He added that "envelope" technology that monitors all aerial functions and helps keep the operator within safe operation parameters.

"People now understand it more and expect it more than the old guys," Frederickson said.

Oyen said combination pumper tankers are very popular, particularly in rural communities.

"They find themselves having to do more with less," Oyen said, adding that virtually all departments everywhere find themselves in the same boat.

Fire departments are also asking for more green technology, according to Rosenbauer, which has met the challenge with Green Star, an idle reduction system that shuts down the engine and runs electrical systems with a backup generator system.

Ergonomics are also very important with customers these days and Harstad said there’s been a lot of interest in Rosenbauer’s aerial command seat. That provides a place for the aerial operator to sit adjacent to the aerial device and to swivel and pivot with the turntable and the aerial device for better comfort and visibility.

There’s also a lot more thought about steps and grab rails as fire department recognize the need to keep firefighters safe as they operate on apparatus, said Oyen.

Departments are paying more attention to compartments and equipment mounting as a way to save space and to be more efficient.

"It’s been big in Europe for years and it’s slowly moving this way," Oyen said of the effort to better utilize compartment space with swing out shelves and slide out trays. Heavy items are now finding homes in apparatus in low spaces to help prevent back injuries and falls.

Frederickson said departments find themselves weighing what they want with what they can afford which means the huge diesel engines are shrinking and becoming more realistic to the mission of the apparatus.

"We still do custom pumpers, but most of them are more realistic for the mission," Frederickson said, adding that departments still want their Federal Q2 sirens and aluminum wheels regardless what the economy might dictate.

Moving forward, Oyen said he believes there will be a lot more rescue pumpers in service in the future as the fire service shifts from fire suppression to emergency medical services.

"A traditional fire engine devotes 50 percent, or more, to fires when only five percent are really fires," Oyen said. I see a shift to more EMS/Rescue applications in the future."


At Smeal Fire Apparatus, trends seem to have some regionalism, said Jeff Wegner, a regional sales director for the company.

In the Northeast, for instance, Smeal’s RPT, which stands for Rescue Pumper Tanker, has caught on.

"It’s a do-everything kind of truck," Wegner said, noting that one was recently sent to Waretown, N.J. that’s 45 feet long. "It has lots of compartments, dump valves, rescue tools and there are a number of those kinds of truck out there.

Wegner said that kind of truck is gaining popularity because departments want to "do a little more with less."

To make "do-it-all" apparatus, it can sometimes take a little creativity and Wegner said Smeal is willing to customize anything to make it work for the customer.

"If you have an idea and we can design and build it, safely, we’ll do it," he said.

Safety and quality are always in style and they continue to be trendy these days, Wegner said, noting that Smeal decided it wasn’t going to make cheaper apparatus just because the economy was soft.

And the customers seem to have responded, he said, noting that because departments might have to keep their apparatus 25 to 30 years, firefighters don’t want to compromise quality.

"They might not know when they are going to get funding again, so they want to get the best truck they can so it will last," he said.

By adding foam systems and CAFS, departments are also concerned about making tank water last as well. Wegner said as much as 80 percent of all apparatus built by Smeal had some form of foam system on board and far more than ever were CAFS.

As the technology has become more accepted, CAFS is also being more accepted and becoming almost commonplace.