Fire Service Business Brightens in 2013

While the fire service didn't experience a huge growth spurt in 2013, it did manage some modest gains making prospects for 2014 much brighter.

The year 2013 wasn’t the greatest for vendors and providers in the fire service, but it wasn’t the worst – by a long shot.

There’s a general sense that the business of firefighting and emergency services is recovering, at least a bit. Anecdotal observations indicate more fire departments are looking to replace rather than repair and orders for loose equipment, which is everything that goes in the compartment of apparatus and on responders, is also up.

In the latest issue of Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association newsletter, FAMA President Harold Boer wrote: “Our statistics and other reports show that our market is coming back and we expect this trend to continue.”

And he should know. Boer is also president of Rosenbauer America, one of the nation’s largest apparatus builders. Boer continued “…I am not sure we will see the levels of 2006-2008 in the near future. However, this trend is good news for all of our members.”

Sales and revenue numbers were not the only ones in the news this year.

Several companies marked milestone anniversaries, including Pierce Manufacturing, another huge apparatus builder in the United States.

Pierce, based in Appleton, Wis., marked its 100th anniversary in 2013 with year-long events, a highlight of which was an open house in July.

Pierce CEO Jim Johnson said the company has made more than 50,000 apparatus since it began.

“What most people don't realize is that all of those trucks are handmade," said Johnson.

"They're the first on the scene of a tragedy. We always hope and pray that they never need to be used, but sadly they do like in San Francisco last week," Johnson said. "But, it makes us feel good that at least the mission of what we do every day helps to serve, protect and potentially save other people."

Two other companies marked milestone anniversaries this year.

Streamlight, a lighting manufacturer based in Eagleville, Pa. marked its 40th year in business in 2013.

“We are proud to have provided such reliable and durable lighting tools for our many customers, including first responders, industrial and automotive professionals, and outdoor enthusiasts, for 40 years,” said Streamlight President and CEO Ray Sharrah. “As technology has evolved, Streamlight has continually leveraged it to produce ever brighter, more feature-rich lights without sacrificing our exacting standards for quality and capability.”

This year was the 25th anniversary for OnSpot of North America, based in Stratford, Conn. The company was founded in in Pat Freyer’s basement in July 1988. The company makes traction tire chains for fire apparatus and emergency equipment, as well as commercial vehicles.

 “With thousands and thousands sold every year, we have come a long way since 1988, when the company sold a grand total of 126 sets of OnSpots--and no, we did not make any money that year,” says Freyer who is still OnSpot’s president today.

There were several important personnel changes at the top of several big companies in 2013. Two industry icons retired after decades in the fire service business.

Bill Bruns, vice president of sales and marketing for United Plastic Fabricating (UPF), headquartered in North Andover, Mass., for the past 17 years, retired from the fire service industry.

Bruns started in the fire service industry in 1966 when he began his career at Grumman Corporation in the Aerospace division. By 1988 he became the President of Emergency Products Division. He joined Ladder Tower Inc. (LTI), Pennsylvania in 1992 as their VP of Sales and Marketing. In 1995 Bill was approached by United Plastic Fabricating’s then President, Alan Burnham and asked to relocate and join the UPF family as the new Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

He was also active in several fire service boards and associations.

“I am saddened to leave an industry that I have enjoyed for over 30 years,” said Bruns. He has many activities that will keep him busy in his well-deserved time of rest and relaxation.

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