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  1. #1
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    Default Controlling the Cost of Fire Apparatus

    In another thread, a person brought up that it might be more important for some departments to request grant money for fire apparatus than for life and property safety issues in their fire house.

    Why? Because apparatus is so expensive.

    Idea for controlling the cost of fire apparatus:

    STOP BUYING WHAT THEY ARE MAKING!

    Why do FD's (at least in North Jersey) insist on purchasing custom apparatus, in many cases too big, redundant and not practical for their response area? Simpler apparatus on commercial chassis are dramatically lower in price. Yet, the manufacturers push thes custom made behemoths. But then, buying an apparatus bigger and better than your neighbor, whether you need it or not, is part of the American fire service tradition.

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  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber CFD Hazards's Avatar
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    I agree 100%. We needed a new ladder truck to fit into a firehouse that was built in 1927, so of course it had to be custom made. The truck has been nothing but problems and has more miles going back and forth to the factory that it does from responses. The truck has sensors and alarms all over it that are more of a hassle than you could ever imagine. This truck has an automatic jack setting mode. When you push these buttons the jacks come out and down and then picks this massive truck 3 or 4 feet off of the ground and sets it back down. Why? You can "short jack" the truck but if you swing the ladder an inch the wrong way, the whole thing shuts down and you have to get down and reset the alarm. Same thing with a too close to the cab alarm. I never knew people were sheering off the cabs of trucks with the aerials. Just get a truck that you can put the jacks down and go to work.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Idea for controlling the cost of fire apparatus:

    STOP BUYING WHAT THEY ARE MAKING!


    Give that man a Cigar

    Companies charge what the market will pay -- that's why you have $40,000 CAFS systems. Folks, there ain't $40,000 in engineering & materials there. But the people buying 'em are willing to pay that, so they do.

    Unfortunately, many fire departments start out deciding what company they want to build their truck, then talk to the salesman who hands them a pre-printed spec sheet, then go out to bid on what one specific company wants to build for them.

  4. #4
    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    Default

    I work in an area that is very "over apparatused". Each department "needs" a truck or so it seems. The problem is there is no longer sufficient personnel to operate these units. The volunteer/POC is fading fast around here except in a few notable exceptions. If the leadership of these communities would seriously consider merging departments there would be a great savings in money and an increase in effective manpower/apparatus utilization. No one wants to give up there little fifedoms. (and their custom engine/truck/squad's).

  5. #5
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Question 1927???

    The 1927 date on your cornerstone is part of your apparatus problem, indirectly of course. Our 1st station was built in 1928, a temporary frame structure, the new, purpose built station came in 1929, an addition came in 1938, a replacement station was built in 1964, and the '64 station was replaced in 1992. The driving force over the years was accomodating more and larger apparatus. During my fathers era as Chief, a 500gpm Mack pumper was purchased for $7,000.00 Shortly before I became Chief, we took delivery of a 1,500gpm pumper with a price tag of $350,000.00. Now a committee is working out spec's for our next engine, which will be somewhat smaller and less "fancy" BUT WILL STILL COST AS MUCH AS THE LAST ONE! You have to buy apparatus that is adequate for the work that it will be doing, and, in particular, the equipment that it will carry. Our Mack (we still have it) predated SCBA, Hurst tools, and a lot more of our modern technology, whereas the later engines have no hard suction sleeves or booster reels. I have always found "commercial" cabs to be too small for our needs. We purchased a Spartan 10 man cab in 1985 and again in 1992 and 1995. I don't forsee ever buying anything else. BUT, the stuff that I would NOT buy if I could avoid it, is all the STUPID OSHA crap that has been mentioned above. Last year, the state of Maryland passed a law barring apparatus builders from putting "load shedding" electrical controls on anything built for sale in the state. Only the Driver and/or Officer can determine, and control, what lights can be turned off and when. I expect that we will try more legislation to force more useless junk off our new purchases in the near future. Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    What is worse yet, is when you are part of a county wide system that dictates what kind of equipment you will use. We are a rural department the usually gets the engine out driver only 99% of the time. We got a huge 10 man custom cab engine, No front intake, 35 ft. ladder and hard suction mounted above the high side compartments monster that takes a football field to turn around in truck as our first out truck.
    We need a 2 man cab short wheel base truck with a front or rear intake for drafting, 24 ft. ladder and more user friendly equipment for a 1 or 2 man operation and setup. Hard suction mounted low so a draft can be set up quickly by one person. Scene lighting capabilities would be a plus also.
    Don't get me wrong, the truck we have is nice, but its overkill for the area we have to cover.

  7. #7
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Default dont know if this helps...

    I know a few departments out here will tag on to an
    existing order to save a little money. A good example
    would be that Los Angeles County Fire, CA (www.lacofd.org)
    will order 25 engines and some smaller cities will
    add like 1 or 2 additonal engines and get a better
    deal.

    Would that help? I know there are places out there
    selling used apparatus. Also, the federal government
    sometimes sells off used apparatus. You might find
    some info at www.fedworld.gov

    -Bou
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 03-30-2003 at 12:34 AM.

  8. #8
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Talking Lets Try This......

    How can we get the NFPA and OSHA to pick up 30% of the cost of each piece of apparatus built in America??? That's my estimate of what those two organizations add to each and every truck, squad, engine, tanker,..... and so on, by requiring a lot of things to help protect us from ourselves. Those two need a reality check, or they need to write checks. Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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  9. #9
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    Default

    Originally posted by Vollie4life
    What is worse yet, is when you are part of a county wide system that dictates what kind of equipment you will use. We are a rural department the usually gets the engine out driver only 99% of the time. We got a huge 10 man custom cab engine, No front intake, 35 ft. ladder and hard suction mounted above the high side compartments monster that takes a football field to turn around in truck as our first out truck.
    We need a 2 man cab short wheel base truck with a front or rear intake for drafting, 24 ft. ladder and more user friendly equipment for a 1 or 2 man operation and setup. Hard suction mounted low so a draft can be set up quickly by one person. Scene lighting capabilities would be a plus also.
    Don't get me wrong, the truck we have is nice, but its overkill for the area we have to cover.
    We have a state-wide department down here, but the system includes several different sized pumpers, and the department supplies each brigade (station) with an appropriate-sized pumper to meet their risk profile. In non-reticulated areas they will supply one or more tankers instead that have smaller pumps fitted. Interestingly the largest pumper in the fleet still only has a 1000gpm pump fitted, and we find this to be adequate for our needs.

    Some questions to ask yourselves are -
    Do we really need a 1500gpm pump when a 1000gpm pump will probably do, or are we speccing a 1500gpm pump just because the neighbouring department has a 1500gpm pump and we have to keep up with them?
    Busy polishing the stacked tips on the deckgun of I.A.C.O.J. Engine#1

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  10. #10
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    Some questions to ask yourselves are -
    Do we really need a 1500gpm pump when a 1000gpm pump will probably do, or are we speccing a 1500gpm pump just because the neighbouring department has a 1500gpm pump and we have to keep up with them?
    Our brother from down under hit the nail on the head. I have seen FD's purchase an apparatus with a large capacity pump, but not have a water system that coulf possibly support it. I have seen FD's purchase 100' aerials when they have no buildings to warrant it. I have seen FD's purchase enormous rescue trucks with all the trappings, but they have no major transportation systems that would require it. One FD convinced their town council they needed a new aerial and got it. When it came in, they announced that the old one wasn;t so bad and they were going to leave it in service! In the same firehouse!

    My favorite is the department which will spend a large sum of money to purchase equipment that is available in the department in the next town (NJ ain't Wyoming, that means it's literally right next door). I would venture to guess that North Jersey has more fire apparatus per capita than anywhere in the world, even NYC.

    You buy a 100' aerial, I'm buying 110'. You're buying a 1250 gpm pump, I'm buying 1500 AND I'm putting hydraulic ladder racks and CAFS on it (even though we will never train with it and won't use it right on our one working structure fire a year).

    You cannot blame NFPA and OSHA for the huge cost of apparatus. There is plenty that a FD can do to trim costs...alot.

  11. #11
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Question Well...Look at it this way......

    Let me throw in one more question on this matter. IF, you only run 75 calls a year, AND, if there is at least 2 more stations within 3 miles/5 minutes of your station, how can you possibly justify your continued existence?????????? Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    I would disagree somewhat that commercial chassis are the answer to the high cost of apparatus. We have both commercial and custom engines in front line service. I can say from experience that, of two engines with the same O.A.L., the commercial unit can't turn down some streets that the custom unit does with ease. We also have arrival and departure angle issues with the commercial chassis.

    I do agree, however, that one-upsmanship buys lots of bells and whistles (and gold leaf) that is clearly wasteful.

    "Standardized" units would probably be the way to go, whether nationally specified, regionally, statewide, or however else - say one design for urban, suburban, interface, articulated aerial, platform, etc. We could all benefit from economies of scale.

    (And don't start about someone's fires being different than someone else's. A high-rise is a high-rise and a ranch house is a ranch house regardless of where you are.)
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  13. #13
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    Originally posted by ullrichk
    I would disagree somewhat that commercial chassis are the answer to the high cost of apparatus. We have both commercial and custom engines in front line service. I can say from experience that, of two engines with the same O.A.L., the commercial unit can't turn down some streets that the custom unit does with ease. We also have arrival and departure angle issues with the commercial chassis.

    I do agree, however, that one-upsmanship buys lots of bells and whistles (and gold leaf) that is clearly wasteful.

    "Standardized" units would probably be the way to go, whether nationally specified, regionally, statewide, or however else - say one design for urban, suburban, interface, articulated aerial, platform, etc. We could all benefit from economies of scale.

    (And don't start about someone's fires being different than someone else's. A high-rise is a high-rise and a ranch house is a ranch house regardless of where you are.)
    Bingo.
    Let me throw in one more question on this matter. IF, you only run 75 calls a year, AND, if there is at least 2 more stations within 3 miles/5 minutes of your station, how can you possibly justify your continued existence??????????
    It's called regionalization. In some places, it's worked miracles. In (most of) North Jersey, it is profanity. It is, IMHO, a very intelligent way for alot of departments to explore.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    My favorite is the department which will spend a large sum of money to purchase equipment that is available in the department in the next town (NJ ain't Wyoming, that means it's literally right next door).

    Yep, we all better wake up and smell the coffee! A couple of years ago a citizen wrote a much-publicized article in the local paper citing the number and expense of fire apparatus that paraded by in the various communities' annual Memorial Day parades. Caused quite a stir. Whereas some of the criticism was unjustified - a lot of the apparatus was over-20-year-old backup pumpers - there was a little truth there also. In these hard economic times the citizens are becoming more savvy, alert, and aware of what they perceive as "waste" in local government spending.

    My department, for many years, has cooperated in our purchases with our mutual-aid "neighbors". Not much that be done about ISO requirements for front-line pumpers, but if we were buying a brush truck, for instance, did our neighbors have to buy one too? Maybe, instead, they bought a light rescue truck. Eventually this cooperation evolved into "joint-operation" of an ambulance, and further cooperation on other levels. Finally, a year ago, we merged (actually a three-department merger)!

  15. #15
    Forum Member EastKyFF's Avatar
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    Default Excess

    I know of a department that bought three engines new in 1994 at $234,000 apiece, turned around in around '97 and bought a quint at $500K+, and has since bought two 2000-ish Pierce Quantum quints at around $485,000 apiece. Over $2 million in apparatus in seven years.

    At the time they bought the engines, they had around 700 calls a year, of which seven were working structure fires. That's less than one a month. Waste, waste, waste.

    My department runs 10-15 structure fires a year on a '98 Ford/E-One pumper, an '86 GMC/FMC pumper, a 2300-gal tanker, and a mini. Since 1987, we have bought about $250,000 of apparatus--1/8 what this other bunch has spent to go to half as many structure fires as we do.

    Miraculous how little money you can spend when you don't have the choice of blowing it.
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    Does anyone stil have the Bergen Recrod series from about two years agho which exposed a glut of fire apparatus in Bergen County?

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    Believe me, I'm grateful that we have equipment that is operational.
    I don't want a new truck because the department down the road got one, I want a truck that is more useful and area friendly.
    Why have a custom cab truck that seats 10 when it goes out with 1?
    I would like to have a truck equiped for the type of calls we run and the way we operate.
    We are a rural area and run 200 calls a year max. We dont need a 250k truck with all the bells and whistles. We need a truck that carries water,equipment and drafts/ pumps. A truck that can go up a narrow driveway or dirt road. A truck that we don't have to be afraid to take off the road if need be, cause its going to get scratched!
    I'm in awe when I see that 300k custom pumper with the custom paint, chrome wheels and lights everywhere. I would love to have one sitting in my station. But there comes a time when reality sets in and you have to get equipment that meets the need of the community and your department.

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    I am going to take a relatively unpopular position here and hang over a little bit on the other side of the fence.

    I would give anything to have a custom pumper. Here's why: our two commercial cabs are not built with the fire service in mind. They are built to the lowest common denominator in trucking at the time of manufacture. There are three seating positions in the back of our Navistar engine. I am a small man, but it is IMPOSSIBLE for three of us to pack up in the back seat at the same time. And I'm not even going to mention seat belts. Why? because you cant find them. They have slid off or are buried with the SCBA straps or are under your partners ***.

    How many rolled over apparatus have you seen pictured on FH? Nearly every one that I've seen that was a commercial cab was mashed down in the front. Usually, the passengers are seriously injured. Now, how many custom cabs are mashed like that? How about those firefighters from Phoenix who rolled their pumper nearly into a canal (we've all seen the video on that)? That cab was completely intact; and if I remember right, you could still open and close the doors. Now, how much of the price of that piece of equipment is tied up in liability insurance? This extends to EVERYTHING we use. (We just spent over $700 a piece for spare SCBA bottles. Are you going to tell me that there's $700 worth of design, engineering and materials in there? Of course not. A big chunk of it is what was said earlier: it's what we'll pay for (FD=2x the cost). But a large chunk is insurance. That's what happens when everybody sues everybody else.).

    Do we need a ten man cab if we're only rolling one or two out the door? No, probably not. But even the departments that have people knocking down the doors to join don't roll ten people on a piece. That's just seating positions. But there's space to get a pack on, store the TIC, mount the MTD, hang the cell phone, mount the officer's tools and keys, mount three portable radio chargers, three flashlights, the multi-gas detector, the natural gas sniffer, a battery conditioner, the helocopter landing kit, the BLS jump bags, an AED, a set of irons, and on and on and on.

    Finally, if I haven't ****ed all of you off yet, there is something to be said for using just one builder; specifically, standardization of maintenance. There is a department near me that has COMPLETELY standardized all their apparatus. EVERYTHING uses the same tires, the same oil filters, the same oil, the same air filters. That's gotta simplify (and I would guess, cheapen) the cost of maintenace.

    Lastly, as far as chrome wheels and gold leaf go, this is not a good economic time for that kinda stuff, I agree. However, it does develop company and civic pride. Chrome bells don't put out fires, but a nice looking rig might help spark a little interest (I'm speaking of Vol/POC here). Get them in the door, then show them what it's really all about. Do you want me going to the next town's parade with a tough looking rig? I don't have to have stuff as nice as Boomtown, but I don't care to be embarrassed either.

    Most important to me, though, is the safety factor. I would rather pay that extra $30,000 to keep the company safe in a rollover.

    I will shaddup and take my beating now.
    Last edited by jaybird210; 04-01-2003 at 05:30 PM.
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    Jaybird, I'm not going to slam you. You have made some intellegent and valid points.
    I am in no way in favor of a commercial chassis over a custom cab or vice-versa.
    My point is I need a truck that fits the needs of the community and the department.
    I see no reason to spend the money on a 10 man cab when a 4 man cab will do. You still have a place to securely mount equipment and provide some kind of rehab area.
    We do our best to keep our equipment clean and shiney, but lets face it, in the area we cover, you spend a lot of time traveling down dirt roads and sometimes across fields to get to the call. Tell me how many chiefs are going to like their 250 to 300k show piece doing something like that, much less the citizens we protect and whopay the taxes that purchased that truck.
    I'm all for show, but we must realize that the fire truck (in any shape or size) is a piece of equipment.
    As far as looking good in the parade....wash, wax and tire shine! Most people just like the shiney firetrucks...firefighters can tell who uses their trucks for show and who uses theirs for GO!
    Like I said before, I wouldn't mind having one of those big custom jobs sitting in the station, but I'd rather see a truck that fits our needs more.
    Last edited by Vollie4life; 04-01-2003 at 07:32 PM.

  20. #20
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    I have no details, but I'd say that a custom rig will hold its value much better than a commercial down the road. Also, many departments buy for the future, trying to guess what they might need 10-15 years down the road. We have one commercial and we HATE it. It has no interior room, very limited storage space, and it is overloaded and underpowered. It was left over from a previous administration whose chief thought the cheaper, the better. Thankfully, we've begun replacing it and our other junk with new apparatus. We've ordered a Pierce Saber custom, delivery due this August. We can't freakin' wait.

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