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    Lightbulb Home-Made "Shade Tree" Fire Engines

    I am trying to build a business case to prove there is evidence of home-made fire department built fire engines involved in accidents and roll-overs more often than professionally built apparatus.

    Does anyone know about any home-made fire engines that might be considered dangerous?

    Any that are made from old milk or fuel tankers?

    Any that are being used without proper safety systems or warning equipment?

    Any that are 25 years old or older?

    What's in your firehouse?

    Let me know and send photos!

    Thanks!

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    Are you refering to vehicle that are not NFPA compliant? Most of the departments in my neck of the woods wouldnt be considered "legal" by the standard. No reflective striping,seat belts,current warning lights, steps,non skid tape,ect...... I know we all should be up to the standard but trying to get local officials to upgrade equipment is tough when money is tight and they are not forced to comply. Our department has a 1972 ford 3000 gallon tanker that has a milk tank on it, not the safest thing in the world, but its all we have. Try stopping in the winter without a baffled tank. You just drive safe and its better to get there in one piece than not at all. Every time the NFPA revises their standard, All of are equipment just gets that much more outdated. Believe or not our equipment is alot better than most of our neighbors. What are you planning to do with the pictures? Would like to help in anyway I can for a good cause.

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    Default Re: Home-Made "Shade Tree" Fire Engines

    Originally posted by AF3394
    I am trying to build a business case to prove there is evidence of home-made fire department built fire engines involved in accidents and roll-overs more often than professionally built apparatus.

    (...)

    Any that are made from old milk or fuel tankers?

    Any that are being used without proper safety systems or warning equipment?

    Any that are 25 years old or older?

    What's in your firehouse?
    In the "Photos of Interesting Apparatus" thread, I just posted my department's main lineup. Every truck was refurbished or built by our members, and certified as meeting all necessary standards.

    The only accident/incident I'm aware of that we've ever had involved someone driving into the back of us as he tried to chase us over a hill in a rural setting (and didn't know we'd stopped at the bottom of the hill beyond his sight).

    Our water tanker was built from a home oil tanker, which was cleaned out, re-plumbed, and re-baffled. It's a little on the heavy side, and takes quite a while to get up to highway speeds with its current powerplant, but it's reasonable to drive.

    Our rescue truck was written off by the city after it was driven into a car trap (a hole in the road big enough to block cars from going through, but spaced just right to let buses use the route, for those who don't know). After some front-end suspension work, bodywork on the cab, and frame straightening, it's perfectly roadworthy today.

    Our second-due pumper is based on a 1976 apparatus, but has been modified and upgraded where necessary. For example, the original round headlights on the front of the truck were rusting right out of the truck, so we replaced the whole assembly with new rectangular headlights and repaired sheetmetal/steel around the openings.

    I don't mean to offend anyone with this comment, but I respectfully think that just because a truck is home-made doesn't mean it's more prone to being in an accident or incident. I think it may be more likely that departments that are content with putting an unmodified milk tank (or fabricating their own tank from scratch) on a chassis of questionable heritage are more prone to incidents, but not because of the construction.. more because there's an underlying.. I don't know.. 'carelessness' about the whole thing?

    Those agencies like SmokeyDaBear's, don't get me wrong - if you make a decent effort out of it and are aware of its limits, that's perfect. Like our tanker - its weight is real close to its max spec. It does NOTHING fast, and everyone who operates it knows it.

    But if you get someone who bolts an old feed tank to the back of an old farm truck, throws a portable pump on and some lights, and thinks it's a fire truck, and drives it that way..

    That's when I think the "accidents" happen.

    --j.

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    Refurbished and home-made are two different things.

    Remember - You are never too poor to be unsafe!

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    Just because a vehicle is "home made" does not in itself make a vehicle unsafe. No vehicle is "unsafe" until you place a "HUMAN" behind the steering wheel. A vehicle will sit right where it's parked, and not damage anything or hurt anyone unitl a human gets behind the steering wheel and moves it.

    Hope all had a Happy and SAFE Thanksgiving Day.

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    Thanks, that's exactly the point I was trying to make.

    --j.

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    A homemade or refurbished vehicle can be just as safe as any new apparatus if done properly. Just taking an oil tanker and putting water in it is obviously NOT "done properly". If you make the proper modifications, it will work just as well as anything new.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    What is the differance between apparatus built in the 60's and 70's that have not been upgraded to current NFPA standards? What was once state of the art has been downgraded to unfit and dangerous. What are departments supposed to do with out of date equipment? The amount of trucks that our out there being used on a daily basis is great. Until somebody starts making the powers that be upgrade equipment till its safe, nothing will ever change. Who is going to inforce this? I became a fireman to help people. I know the risks everyday, I also know the most valuable asset we have is our people. I get frustrated when you tell the powers that be that changes need to be made. If somebody has an idea on fixing the problem lets hear it in detail, or figure out a plan we can all take part in to fix it together.

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    IMHO I think the only place you'll find "home made" resulting in higher accident rates are in oil trucks converted to water tankers. Some FD's will take an old fuel delivery truck, put a dump chute on the back and paint the cab red without considering the ramifications of the weight difference between water and oil.

    On a typical 2800gal tank, changing from fuel to water will add over 2 tons to the truck, increasing the truck's weight to nearly 15% above its design. This will reduce the effectiveness of the brakes and since oil tanks sit high on the frame this will increase the center of gravity.

    To do the conversion properly you must reduce the capacity of the tank. In the case of the 2800gal tank you'd need to reduce its capacity to about 2250gal. You can do this by welding in air filled voids (near the top of the tank, not the bottom) or place large chunks of foam in the tank (again at the top).

    Since milk is a lot closer to the weight of water there is less overweight problems with this design, but the unbaffeled tank will present serious stability issues if the tank is not pressed right up to the top.

    Some rural FD's also have the unfortunate habbit of training new drivers on tankers before they are allowed to drive an engine. The belief is that the new drivers need to learn how to drive a heavy rig before getting behind the wheel of the "real" fire trucks and/or being trained as pump operators. This misguided attempt to "protect" the engine results in young, under experienced, hyper excited firefighters driving solo with the most dangerous vehicle in the fleet to their first fire call as operators.
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    Between 1948 and 1993, every firefighting apparatus that my department
    had was built in house. As to being unsafe, knock on wood but no accidents other than the occational gomer backing into a partially closed overhead door. In 1999 we fabricated a "new" 3200 gallon tanker. Any tanker of it's size, factory, refurb shop or department built is going to need an attentive driver. And yes, there are some things that probably be better on a factory truck, such as lower gearing. In 2000 myself and about 10 others swapped engines in a 1979 Ford 800 front mount pumper/tanker, removing a grenaded gas 429 V8/5 Speed/2 Speed and replacing it with a Diesel/6 speed/single speed rear axle. The tech that does our pump checks thought it was a factory setup, it's that clean. The only thing that didn't work after the conversion is the speedometer, and we have paced it at 55 mph top speed, top gear, flat roadway. The Diesal was a huge improvement, and its operational redline is as high as the gas V8 it replaced. Our steepest hills sometimes require a downshift from 6th to 4th, but compared to the hassle of the 2 speed rear it had it's a big improvement. It's front mount pump put out 10% more than rated flow, and this is a pump that has been used for about 22 years with only drive clutch replacement. Stick a nozzle on the front mount pump, drive in creeper gear, and you have a 1500 gallon grass buggy that has a footprint not much larger than some some of todays oversized crew cab trucks. Early on in my tenure, we needed a grass truck, and a local municipality sold us a truck siezed in a drug rad for $10. The most unsafe this truck has been was when it was driven home. The police had stipped the seat out, so one of our guys drove it to the station about 20 miles sitting on a 5 gallon bucket. We now have a 18 hp/200 gallon stainless skid mount unit, and from outward looks you would be hard pressed to discern this truck from a factory unit.

    We also took our bucket truck of it's chassis and remounted it to a 67 international 1800 that was the departments front line pumper for many years. We retained the front mount pump, so we can use it to draft with or to fight fire if we have a watersupply for it. The bucket was outfitted with a remote control nozzle setup that can accomodate a 2-1/2" fog hog nozzle.

    Proud of our Home Growns? Hell yes. I'm proud of our Factory built 93 and 94 E-ones also. In many ways, the the 79 ford home built pumper tanker outperforms the 94 E-One factory pumper tanker.

    We have been blessed with a talented group of mechnics and fabricators, but many departments have similar talent. To dismiss homebuilts as unsafe or unworthy in general is erroneous

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    Thumbs up Pictures!

    PFD:
    Have you got a website or some pictures you can post of your rigs? They sound quit inovative and well worth a picture. Rigs like these are a lot more impressive showing than just writting a check.

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    Kudos to cfd3501. Your department evidently has a lot of pride to do what you do. My former department has tried to build a couple of trucks but nothing ever gets finished. We have money donated to build these trucks but some of our instant experts keeps real progress from happening.
    Our neighboring department received a state grant and bought a 4x4 Navistar International chassis. They took an old 30 yr old truck and stripped it. they used some of the parts along with new and fabricated parts and built a beautiful wildland engine. It is the best looking shop built truck I have ever seen. This truck was built and put into service in a 6 wks time period with members doing all the work. I see so much unity and pride in this truck. I just wish that the pride, unity, and quality would rub off to other departments. Their trucks total cost was $83000.00. What a bargain

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    My department has many units that were built by the people in the department...no extra accidents that I can recall....check out the website for pics...Seffner-Mango Volunteer Fire Department
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    3525
    the compartment in front of the rear wheel has a single stage 500gpm Darley that we had removed from a defunct front mount pumper, which we use to draft with

    this is a 3300 gallon tanker

    We purchased the chassis used, and had to do some chassis mods
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    3545
    We bought this from a local municipality for $10 as a drug raid confiscation. (and put a lot more into it)
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    3546
    1971 jeep cj5
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    AF3394 - why are you trying to build a case against "shade tree's"

    Want a new or factory apparatus but higher ups say no?

    Hmmm, I sense an agenda here.

    As mentioned by others, If constructed properly and operated within the window of common sense, the homebuilts are safe.

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    Default Agenda???

    "If constructed properly and operated within the window of common sense, the homebuilts are safe."

    Yeah... and Colonel Klink never lost a prisoner.

    How many mechanical engineers do you have on your department who will sign their lives away when building a home made tanker or brush unit? I say not many.

    There is an agenda.

    1. Firefighters should not be subjected to using equipment that is unsafe for the sake of the "we can't afford it" syndrome. You can't afford safety? Stay in the barn!
    2. Unsafe, non-engineered built, under or overpowered, and non-NFPA compliant vehicles do not belong on the road with lights and sirens in the "on" position.
    3. Who is ultimately responsible? (Clue - sounds like THE DRIVER!)
    4. Last time I checked, I didn't want to lose my livihood, house, and posessions for the sake of a tightwad politician!

    Look at it from the safety perspective. The view is scary from this end.

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    Having built or been involved in building several FD apparatus over my 35 years here I have no problems with "shop built"apparatus.View not very scary here,we use heavy spec chassis,modify marginal equipment(like adding an extra air tank and bigger compressor)Use poly tanks,name brand pumps etc.Why,as HARD as this might be to imagine,there might be an engineer or two on the roster.Haven't needed one yet but if that little computer drawing with the stamp on the bottom makes you feel safer,I guess we could do it.There is STILL a lot of good truck men left in the country that can make a good,rugged piece of serviceable equipment for less than $400,000.Just 'cause it's NFPA approved doesn't keep it shiny side up any longer that if it isn't.As a lot have alluded too,the chauffer has quite a part in that equasion.Hey,I got a question.Were those last two rollovers "shopbuilt"equipment?Didn't think so.T.C.

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    AF3394 - I think you're agenda is full of holes

    Our most problematic vehicles are the factory built units.

    When we bought our E-Ones, the experts (like yourself?) convinced the chief at the time that generators were an unnecessary expense and inverters were the way to go. Many failures (at $1000/failure) later we put generators in the trucks. With our shade tree modifications, the trucks work great!!

    Our ambulances on Ford chassis are the definition of high maintenance bitch. Ford has had their engineers upgrade the brakes, transmissions, and electrical systems several times in the last 10 years because they had an inadequate design to begin with.

    If you blow through a light and hit someone, it doesn't matter whether its home built or factory, you're in trouble. Many accidents happen at intersections, and are driver related.

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    More for AF3394

    Just curious, what is your experience level?(be honest now)

    From your statements I would say that you are a relative newbie. The realities of the volunteer service is that many departments can not afford new vehicles. That's part of rural economics. A lot of departments run hand me down forest service vehicles, or otherwise deparment built machines. If they all had your attitude, then a lot of firefighting wouldn't be done because the firefighters were back at the shed, dreaming of chrome bumpers and aluminum wheels.

    Have you had any experience with department built rigs, pro or con?

    Look at the pictures of our trucks. They have been assembled by a very talented group. Large truck mechanics, ag mechanics, factory maintenance personell, professional welders.

    The next town over has an ambulance dealership. They often have multiple crashed vehicles outside either for repair or parts. I haven't seen any home built rigs over their. Hmm, is there a chance that you can have driver error with a factory built?

    Lets visit your statement on brush trucks. A couple years ago, most brush trucks (pickup size) available from the apparatus manufacturers were on a ton chassis ie Ford F350. Now, the grass trucks of the same overall size are on the newer F450 and F550 chassis, which gives you a chassis about the size of a longbed pickup with a 20,000 GVR. Could it be the apparatus makers were making inadequate vehicles?

    If we buy a F450 or F550 chassis and a skid mount pump/tank unit, is it any different than a factory built rig? about $10,000 to $20,000 different. The engine, tranny,brakes,alternator are the same. Go figure.

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    Default You missed the point.

    It is not if you are talented enough to build these things, it is if you are willing to risk your life using one. At least with a manufacturer's name and an engineered truck, you have someone to sue! How would you feel if you had to take your buddy to court because his work on your shade tree rig cost some one else (or you) an arm, leg or their life?

    Using your logic, it would be fine if someone built a home made SCBA or sewn together their own turnout gear. Would you use these items? Probably not. Then why would you use something of the same nature to get to the emergency?

    I think it all boils down to acceptable risk. What is acceptable to you?

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    I still fail to see the revelance.I'm no safer or less safe in one I built than say an E-one for example.I guess it all boils down to do you know trucks,can you spec a truck,do you know how to assemble the components.Any apparatus builder will and has built "non NFPA"apparatus.If this country would do away with the awarding of monetary sums for ignorance,and award stipends to organizations that do it right,we would all live better and cheaper.Sue someone!Why,cause you drove into the corner too fast;flipped over and now it's the Mfg's fault?Oh yeah,there should have been a warning label!You can't legislate common sense nor will a stamp on a drawing provide you with same.People need to be held accountable for their actions,not sue them to their "senses".I'm sorry,I've assembled too much equipment for emergency use to say there is a huge safety factor in having big companies building rigs.Maybe in your neck of the woods someone doesn't know what they're doing but in Maine we build log trucks,tow trucks and Fire trucks.Good,safe,reliable ones.T.C.

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