After re-reading the “Chief Concerns” column from the November, 2001 issue of Firehouse magazine (featuring Milwaukee, WI’s newly designed apparatus), I couldn’t help but notice that the spec committee seemed to be thinking too hard on these rigs.

For starters, the engines feature 500 gallon upright tanks to allow for a low hosebed. They make a big deal about how they “wanted low hosebeds - a little above waist height....Higher hosebeds require more personnel, unnecessary firefighter strain and create increased injuries.”

One only needs to glance at the drawings to see how quickly they contradict themselves: the bottom of the crosslay beds are nearly 8’ off the ground. In order to make these 8’ crosslays easier to re-load (and for greater pump access), they built a cross-walk (similar to those on a top-mount panel) which adds a mere 20 inches on to the truck. However, because the crosswalk is only 3 ˝ feet high and the crosslays are 8 feet high, they had to add two sets of folding steps on the side of the crosslay box for the firefighters to stand on while reloading hose. This seems quite safe and convenient.

Any number of obvious solutions could have made the crosslay design consistent with that of the main hosebed. The big front bumper of nothingness could have held numerous preconnects, or they could have even set the rigs up with speedlays in slide-out trays instead of the pointless crosswalk.

On the topic of topside access: they clearly planned carefully and spent extra money to install extra fold down steps and grab rails – an improvement from the norm, but still far from ideal. Why didn’t they spend $800 on a custom made Zico folding/pool style ladder?

The author writes: “We also wanted a deck gun that is on the pump panel side of the engine. This allows the operator to adjust and use it without having to climb on top of the apparatus. Climbing is particularly dangerous in freezing temperatures.” Wow! Those are some tall engineers. If they really have 8’ tall engineers, they should have raised the roof over the front seats too. Seriously though – how about spec’ing a remote gun so that there REALLY doesn’t have to be any climbing? I understand that the new NFPA standards will be strongly recommending remote monitors – it’s about time!

“We also wanted good all around visibility. At night, that means lights. We wanted high-intensity lights on all rigs to enable us to do everything from find an address on a house to lighting an entire scene.” What a joke! They ONLY floodlighting on the trucks are a single federal night-fighter on the officer’s side. There is no forward facing lighting. Heck – there aren’t even any 12V scene lights.

In all fairness, I must say that they have done well with the cab design. They have a real raised roof with full height doors (not one of those skimpy 12” jobs), and every seat is forward facing. The fire service tradition of having rear-facing SCBA seats and forward facing fold down seats must be one of the stupidest to date.

Any Milwaukee firefighters on the forums? How about some discussion. How do the rigs perform? Is the design really common sense, or was the spec committee thinking too hard?