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    Default History of Open-Cab Apparatus?

    Two questions for historians or others in the know. Why did open-cab fire apparatus stay "topless" for so many decades? And why were covers and cabs finally added to apparatus?

    Below is my take, that I wrote to answer some readers on another forum. Does it hold water? Is it close but no cigar? Thanks in advance.
    My copy of This Was Trucking - A Pictorial History of the First Quarter Century of the Trucking Industry by Robert A. Karolevitze (1966) shows quite a few cabs and canopies on trucks of all types in those early decades. Some cabs were fully enclosed, with doors made of cloth or heavier material (wood, metal). Fire apparatus, though, had neither. The apparatus of the 1910s and 1920s were entirely exposed. No cabs, no covers. Why was that?

    Don't know, but am willing to speculate. Maybe ease of access was an issue, or thought to be an issue. Firefighters perhaps didn't want any impediments to quickly climbing into or onto the engine, or from quickly climbing from front to back. Perhaps space was an issue. Fully-dressed firefighters took up more space, and cabs or covers were thought to be too constricting.

    In any city with tall buildings, firefighters needed the ability to spot smoke. Thus, a cab or cover would prevent those riding up front from simply looking up, and seeing the smoke. Ditto for arriving on scene. There are tales of ladder truck operators bemoaning the arrival of covered cabs, which made positioning apparatus that much harder. The operator couldn't look up.

    Fire apparatus developed covers and cabs soon enough. The first fully-enclosed fire engine was delivered to Charlotte, NC, in 1935. That Sedan-style was made particularly popular by Seagrave, which offered the style on its 70th Anniversary Series. Detroit had a bunch of those, I believe.

    Seagrave also were selling many open-cab rigs, as were other companies. By now, though, open-cab mean open-top. The trucks had windshields and doors. And any apparatus built using a commercial chassis was probably closed-cab, as both automobiles and trucks didn't stay "open" too terribly long.

    Why then did closed cabs develop for all apparatus? Speculation now. First, obviously, were safety issues. Cabs protected the crews in the event of an accident. Was the civil unrest of the late 1960s also a factor, do you suppose? Protecting crews from rocks, missiles, etc.? Next, cabs protected against the elements. This certainly helped with operating the trucks in heavier rain and snow.

    It was probably an improvement on maintenance costs, from equipment damaged by rain and snow. It likely improved safety. No freezing rain forming ice your turnout coat, at least in winter climates.

    Interestingly, fire apparatus in Europe was consistently covered a good couple decades earlier.

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    Interestingly, fire apparatus in Europe was consistently covered a good couple decades earlier.

    As with just about everything in firefighting, Europe was ahead of the US.

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    From what I've read in the past, it looks like you're on track. I saw somewhere that one large city dept had enclosed cabs in the 1920s, and went away from them after an officer couldn't find a fire scene even though there was smoke in the sky. Detroit had the safety sedan Seagraves from the 1930s, then went to canopy cabs that left the back seats open from the 70s-90s. I also remember reading that FDNY went to the covered cabs specifically because of the violence in the 60s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnyv View Post
    From what I've read in the past, it looks like you're on track. I saw somewhere that one large city dept had enclosed cabs in the 1920s, and went away from them after an officer couldn't find a fire scene even though there was smoke in the sky. Detroit had the safety sedan Seagraves from the 1930s, then went to canopy cabs that left the back seats open from the 70s-90s. I also remember reading that FDNY went to the covered cabs specifically because of the violence in the 60s.
    My old volly dept used a 76 Superior, ( Now E1) on a Ford chassis with the back cab open until the early to mid nineties.

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    The Memphis FD is still running open rear cabs as frontline rigs.
    FF/Paramedic

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryanLoader View Post
    My old volly dept used a 76 Superior, ( Now E1) on a Ford chassis with the back cab open until the early to mid nineties.
    My career dept still has an 86 Pierce canopy cab in reserve. It's been less than 5 years since our last canopy cab went out of front line service. The one below was sold to another dept in 2004. I'm sure there are plenty of places still running with canopy cabs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Interestingly, fire apparatus in Europe was consistently covered a good couple decades earlier.

    As with just about everything in firefighting, Europe was ahead of the US.
    Trolling with different bait now.

    Nice.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    I think that the O.P. kinda answered a lot of his own Questions as he went. That certainly was an insightful Post, and well written. The one thing that has Not been Mentioned is the "Macho Factor". Many FDs and/or VFDs continued to buy Open Cabs because the crews wanted them, and for no other reason. There was no Money saved by not having a Top on a Cab, if anything, the need for additional "Weatherproofing" measures probably added to the cost. Case in Point - An Engine that I drove for years had Windshield Wipers on the Inside of the Cab as well as the Standard pair on the Outside. Although I wasn't a member of any "Apparatus Purchasing Committees" back then, I have a gut Feeling that the Wiring, Upholstery, Etc, had to have additional work to make sure it held up in the "Open" environment. A friend once told me that his Department's Last Open Cab was was ordered that way after a rather stormy Department Meeting where some members openly said that if those riding on the Back were going to get wet and cold, then the Driver and Officer needed to as well. They had the Votes, and the Engine was delivered with an Open Top........

    Glenn Dale had Open Cabs from the start in 1928, until a International/Young 750gpm Pumper was delivered in 1959. The Young had a Closed Cab for the Officer and Driver, and a Windshield over the back handrail for the Crew on the Back Step. Next came a 1965 Ward LaRust with a Canopy Cab followed by a Full 4 Door Cab on a 1968 International/Ward. The '59 International was replaced in '69 by another Ward, and everyone was off the Back Step after that. We still have our last Fully open Cab, a 1945 Mack 500gpm Pumper.
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    Homemade roof on Ladder.

    Engine 54 back step

    Engine 54 backstep II

    Yes the reason for the enclosed cabs was not for concern of the men exposed to the elements...but being exposed to "air mail" moltov ****tails and other debris.

    As one can see above, the men OTJ at the time did their best with chicken wire, and plywood roofs until new rigs were purchased...and even then our TLs didn't become completely enclosed until the 1990s.

    The roof over the backstep of the Engines was to protect the men riding back there and the canvas cover was to allow any flaming projectiles to be bounced off to the side and keep the hosebed from being set afire.

    There was at least one sickout in protest by the men during that time period that were sick of being pelted with bricks and bottles and the job doing little about it.

    And yes when we had open cabs, at least in my house the Truck ran with the Roof man and OVM in the open seats facing forward as they could stand and begin their size up while approaching the fire building comming down the block.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Interestingly, fire apparatus in Europe was consistently covered a good couple decades earlier.

    As with just about everything in firefighting, Europe was ahead of the US.
    Good Lord man can you ever post any comment on any topic that isn't negative about the American fire service? One can only imagine how you developed this loathing of the proud and dedicated American fire service.

    Frankly, I am sick of your continual attacks, both overt and covert, on the way we do things, the equipment, the Brotherhood and traditions of the American fire service.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Interestingly, fire apparatus in Europe was consistently covered a good couple decades earlier.

    As with just about everything in firefighting, Europe was ahead of the US.
    So go the hell to Europe. Or do you think they hate cowards there, too?
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Fryed ..

    Sorry if the truth hurts, but look at some of the greatest equipment improvements in the last 10-20 years, and much of it came from Europe.

    PPV, 2" lines, LDH.

    Fact is Europe has been riding around in fully enclosed cabs for the last 40-50 years and we just caught on to the safety benefits in the last 10.

    This also applies to firefighting tactics. Look at the some of the European's countries emphasis on understanding the technical nature of fire and actually teaching it to frontline personnel. Same with the requirement for college degrees for mid-level and command-level positions, and the emphasis on public education and prevention as compared to a suppression-based system.

    Much like some European armies were ahead of the curve before WWII with both equipment (tanks, 88's, aircraft) and tactics, they are ahead of the curve today in terms of the fire service, again, in both equipment and in some respects, tactics.

    Am I down on the American fire service? Yes. Though the changes I see in progressive departments as far as an emphasis on firefighter safety and less emphasis on traditional operating procedures does give me great hope.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 01-03-2010 at 01:47 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Fryed ..

    Sorry if the truth hurts, but look at some of the greatest equipment improvements in the last 10-20 years, and much of it came from Europe.

    PPV, 2" lines, LDH.

    Fact is Europe has been riding around in fully enclosed cabs for the last 40-50 years and we just caught on to the safety benefits in the last 10.

    Much like European armies were ahead of the curve before WWII with both equipment (tanks, 88's, aircraft) and tactics, they are ahead of the curve today, again, in both equuipment and in some respects, tactics.

    Am I down on the American fire service? Yes. Though the changes I see in progressive departments as far as an emphasis on firefighter safety and less emphasis on traditional operating procedures does give me great hope.
    What a bizarre and convoluted belief system you claim to have.

    Your ignorance of american firefighting is matched by your ignorance of our military.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    So Chief .....

    Do you deny that much of the recent equipment developments we have seen in the past 10-15 years have their roots in Europe?

    Do you deny that it is smarter to put personnel in enclosed cabs?

    Do you deny that enclosed cabs may have saved firefighter lives all these years?

    Do you deny that it would have been much smarter for the American fire service to have adopted enclosed cabs as the standard, like the Europeans, when they were available many years ago?

    Do you deny that advanced studies of fire behavior and applying those studies to modified tactics is a bad thing?

    Do you deny that requiring college degrees for advancement in the fire service is a bad thing?

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    We've had several open cab rigs from the 70's that had roofs built by our shop. Fought my first 3 alalm fire from this bucket. Two rigs were still in service when I came on. The other was Truck 9, a tiller. Had nothing to do with weather. Strictly for protection from the locals in economically challanged neighborhoods.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Fryed ..

    Sorry if the truth hurts, but look at some of the greatest equipment improvements in the last 10-20 years, and much of it came from Europe.

    PPV, 2" lines, LDH.

    I don't care enough to do the research to prove or disprove whether any or all of those originated in Europe. Although I believe that 2 inch hose actually was a maritime invention.

    Fact is Europe has been riding around in fully enclosed cabs for the last 40-50 years and we just caught on to the safety benefits in the last 10.

    Actually, Seagrave was making fully enclosed sedan cabs back in the 1930's. It certainly wasn't that the technology wasn't available. It wasn't what the fire departments wanted.

    Much like European armies were ahead of the curve before WWII with both equipment (tanks, 88's, aircraft) and tactics, they are ahead of the curve today, again, in both equuipment and in some respects, tactics.

    This is the most hysterical comparison I have ever seen. Ahead of the curve? If you want to use this example how do you balance the Polish Army attacking Panzers on HORSES, the French army in the Maginot line, a tactic left over from WWI, that was completely circumvented and eventually destroyed by the German army, the English army being swept off the European continent at Dunkirk. The ONLY country with advanced weapons, soldiers treained in the new fluid battle field and lightning war tactics were the Germans. The rest of Europe, England included, was ill prepared for war and if it hadn't been for Lend Lease and eventually the presence of massive quantities of American troops the war very well may have ended far differently than it did.

    Care to try again with your comparison? Because this one you listed is so damn wrong as to be pathetic.


    Am I down on the American fire service? Yes. Though the changes I see in progressive departments as far as an emphasis on firefighter safety and less emphasis on traditional operating procedures does give me great hope.

    Progressive departments? Funny how those departments are the ones that follow YOUR model of what the fire service should be and not the mainstream. You harp on and on about firefighter safety like it is one or the other, agressive firefighting or safety. The real world firefighters, the ones that actually see fire and fight fire, know for a fact that the 2 can and do co-exist everyday. You will only be happy when there is a fire service with no danger to responders and that is IMPOSSIBLE. The very nature of the job is dangerous and firefighter injuries and deaths will always occur because we have to go inside, when possible, to do our jobs. Can we reduce them? Of course. Eliminate them? I can't see how. Well, unless we are NEVER, under any circumstances, going to get close enough to the fire building to even feel the heat.

    What you call traditional is the way fires get put out. Water applied to the base of the fire. Coordinated ventilation. Overhaul. Salvage. Search and rescue. All elements of PROPER structural firefighting.

    Sorry La...this post proves nothing other than you have a baseless OPINION. Especially since your example of Europe being advanced before WWII is FACTUALLY WRONG.
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    [quote=1129726
    Last edited by qwerty11; 02-17-2010 at 07:51 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    So Chief .....

    Do you deny that much of the recent equipment developments we have seen in the past 10-15 years have their roots in Europe?

    Do you deny that it is smarter to put personnel in enclosed cabs?

    Do you deny that enclosed cabs may have saved firefighter lives all these years?

    Do you deny that it would have been much smarter for the American fire service to have adopted enclosed cabs as the standard, like the Europeans, when they were available many years ago?

    Do you deny that advanced studies of fire behavior and applying those studies to modified tactics is a bad thing?

    Do you deny that requiring college degrees for advancement in the fire service is a bad thing?
    You aren't sucking me into your BS.

    Your posts in this thread are obvious trolling attempts to gather attention for yourself.

    Not sure what sick need it fills, but it's pathological.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    So Chief .....

    Do you deny that much of the recent equipment developments we have seen in the past 10-15 years have their roots in Europe?

    Do you deny that it is smarter to put personnel in enclosed cabs?

    Do you deny that enclosed cabs may have saved firefighter lives all these years?

    Do you deny that it would have been much smarter for the American fire service to have adopted enclosed cabs as the standard, like the Europeans, when they were available many years ago?

    Do you deny that advanced studies of fire behavior and applying those studies to modified tactics is a bad thing?

    Do you deny that requiring college degrees for advancement in the fire service is a bad thing?
    You get more pathetic with every post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty11 View Post
    you are the equivalent "commie pinko" of the fire service. you sound straight out of Europe with your pussy firefighting beliefs and numerous posts.

    i can just picture it now...you, standing outside a building in Sweden, with your 2" line, attacking defensively, pushing the fire further in the building, creating the most unnecessary multiple alarm fire ever to be had, under the complete delusion your doing it right and safe. you and scarecrow should hook up, you are the almighty skells of this board.
    Please, tell me how many years service do you have with European fire services. From your spelling and syntax, how many years did you spend in GRADE 5

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    [quote;1129750]
    Last edited by qwerty11; 02-17-2010 at 07:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty11 View Post
    the spelling is fine and the last sentence is intentionally long. anymore semantics?

    you actually think i'm from europe? an explanation of this post and it's humor shouldn't be needed, you're a little lost on this one.
    No I can guarantee you are not from Europe and from your ignorant comments, doubt that you could find it on a map.

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    [quote=;1129758][quote]
    Last edited by qwerty11; 02-17-2010 at 07:49 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty11 View Post
    not surprised you are offended. you'd get along well with LA.
    Nope probably not. I spent a total of 34 years combined with a career and a Vol dept in Canada, the next 15 years working with many European, Asian and Australian fire depts. Amazing how a little travel and education can improve your knowledge. I'd urge you to try it if you could find the county line.

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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty11 View Post
    not surprised you are offended. you'd get along well with LA.
    He does. He is one of the minions.
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