New truck to help county firefighters
Jeremy Duda - DAILY HERALD
When wildfires start rolling across the Utah County landscape, the amount of time firefighters can spend battling a blaze before going back for more water may make the difference between a few acres of charred grass and a record-setting inferno. But thanks to a new piece of equipment, county firefighters will be able to spend less time refilling their water tankers and more time keeping the flames under control.
The Utah County Wildland Fire Division on Thursday unveiled its newest tool, a massive truck called the TATRA Ultra XT. The new vehicle has a significantly larger water tank than the trucks the division has been using for years as well as a number of other features that should help out as the county prepares for the 2008 wildfire season.
Kevin Cortez, Utah County's assistant fire warden, said the TATRA has a 2,000-gallon tank, compared to the 750-gallon tanks with which the division's other trucks are equipped. With 750 gallons of water, Cortez said the division's fire trucks can stay in the field during a fire for about 30 minutes. But with the TATRA, they will be able keep battling a grass fire for more than an hour.
Cortez said the county decided to buy the truck after particularly heavy wildfire seasons in 2002 and 2003. And things have only gotten worse since then, he said.
"Basically, we can stay out in the field longer, and that's what it's really going to come down to," Cortez said.
The truck has other features as well. The TATRA has a central tire-inflation system that allows firefighters to increase or decrease pressure in the six tires on the go. On the highway, for example, tire pressure must be high. But low tire pressure is needed to travel on the soft, sandy terrain where wildland firefighters frequently work.
Mounted on the front of the truck is an adjustable water cannon that is controlled from the inside of the truck with a joystick. The cannon can shoot both water and a type of foam that is ideal for use on materials such as wood and grass.
The truck also has six-wheel drive where the division's other vehicles only have four-wheel drive. The combination of features will allow firefighters to get closer to fires, hit them harder and stay there longer.
"If we can help reduce some of the burn area, the burn acreage, this is the tool that's going to do it. We can carry water farther. With 2,000 gallons we can do a lot more direct attack on fires than we could with only 750," Cortez said.
With a price tag of about $412,000, the TATRA didn't come cheap. But Cortez said the truck was paid for by the Utah County Wildland Fire Program, under which county firefighters help departments in other states put out wildfires. Those other departments reimburse Utah County for the costs of the service, and there is usually some extra money left over, Cortez said.
Since the program began six years ago, the division has put that extra revenue into a fund, and Cortez said the balance of that fund was used to buy the TATRA at no cost to the county's taxpayers.
In buying the TATRA, Utah County was following the example of the Bureau of Land Management. After the BLM bought its own TATRA, the division took note of how well it worked for the agency, which often works on the same kind of terrain as the Utah County firefighters.
"We share a lot of the same terrain as the BLM. That's really what caught our attention," Cortez said. "They put a really good product out in the field, and we did our research on it and figured that this would suit our needs really well."
Cortez said the division plans to train two six-person crews to use the TATRA. The training takes about two weeks, and the Wildland Fire Division hopes to have the TATRA in the field by mid-July.
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Thread: Utah County gets New Rig
06-27-2008, 12:04 PM #1
Utah County gets New Rig
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