As Firehouse Sees It: Truckin’

Oct. 17, 2011

With November being our focus on the latest and greatest fire apparatus, I would like to reflect on some of the many factory visits I had made over the years. A few months ago, I was asked to visit Pierce in Wisconsin. The company was  showing the fire service media a new design in apparatus. The new rig has plenty of room upfront for the driver and officer, and the crew cab has an unobstructed view throughout. I made the comment that in my departments, when personnel are available, we may have six members riding on a rig. I was told that most departments interested in the design were riding three or four, average, across the nation. Several of these new models are touring the country.

Since the early 1980s, I’ve visited the following apparatus manufacturers: Hahn, Grumman, Saulsbury, Seagrave, E-ONE, Rosenbauer and now Pierce. It is always a great thrill to see the newest, technologically superior apparatus incorporating the latest designs, safety, ergonomics and firefighting capabilities. When I was at the latest New Jersey State Fireman’s Convention in Wildwood, a demonstrator rig was traveling along the East Coast.

When great minds get together to ask firefighters what they think about apparatus, what kinds of innovations they want to see, how their jobs can be made easier and safer, and how manufacturers can provide a more comfortable ride, the results can be  amazing. We’ve come a long way from hand-drawn, horse-drawn, motorized and now fully enclosed crew cabs. What will tomorrow bring?

This month, we provide three features that assess today’s apparatus market: our annual Apparatus Showcase on page 52, The Apparatus Architect on page 66 and a Manufacturers Roundtable on page 72.

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Recently, I was invited by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to serve on a project advisory committee regarding the effectiveness of fire service ventilation and suppression tactics. This follows work last year on horizontal ventilation. Under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program-Fire Prevention and Safety Grants, UL is examining the impact of vertical ventilation (through the roof), both naturally induced and as a firefighting tactic, on fire-growth behavior in residential structures. This two-year project will develop empirical data on vertical-ventilation techniques that is needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and result in immediately developing the necessary firefighting ventilation practices to reduce firefighter death and injury. Suppression techniques used to fight these modern fire conditions will also be examined to assess their impact on occupant survivability. This fire research project will further work from previous DHS AFG-sponsored research (EMW-2008-FP-01774), which studied the impact of horizontal ventilation through doors and windows. Additionally, this research will address questions of smoke-alarm response associated with different alarm technologies and alarm location to support fire department smoke alarm distribution programs, including those sponsored by DHS Fire Prevention and Safety Grant program. The project objectives are as follows:

• Improve firefighter safety by increasing knowledge of fire behavior

• Develop knowledge of vertical ventilation tactics

• Generate understanding of modern construction practices such as open floor plans and emerging attic construction design on fire growth

• Address concerns about smoke-alarm technologies and placement to support fire department smoke-alarm distribution programs

• Develop tactical considerations based on the experimental results that can be incorporated into firefighting standard operating guidelines (SOGs)

As the two-year plan continues, we will report on updates as they become available.

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As we get closer to Firehouse World 2012, taking place Feb. 19-23 in San Diego, CA, we have included several timely topics involving the current economic climate, the survival of the fire service as we know it and firefighter safety. These recently added classes focus on Near-Miss Incidents; The Complete Fire Officer; A Major Safety Investigation; Preparing for the International City Manager’s 20 Tough Questions; The Future of Your Fire Department: Our Chance to Survive?; Command and Control: We Need To do Better; A Company Officer’s Guide to Fire Service Politics; Group Purchasing: Save Time and Money; and Shots Fired! Are You Ready? For information, see

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