Innovative Rigs on the Street: Suffern's Tiller

Aug. 28, 2012

The fire service enjoys many proud traditions dating back to when steamers were horse drawn and ladder trucks carried buckets, hooks and an assortment of heavy, wooden ground ladders. Over the years as motorized apparatus became prevalent the ability to carry a wider variety of hand tools, portable ladders and personnel became the order of the day.

During the mid-1930's Peter Pirsch developed the first hydraulically powered aerial ladder which was delivered to Melrose, MA. Shortly after, Seagrave Fire Apparatus, then located in Columbus, OH, introduced their version of a steel aerial ladder that was raised hydraulically and produced in lengths ranging from 65 to 85 feet.

Webster's Dictionary defines tradition as "an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior". While some of us may reflect back upon our initiation into the fire service, the traditions that were instilled upon us during the first few training sessions and fire ground operations no doubt have left a lasting impression on our careers.

Suffern Apparatus History

The Suffern, New York Fire Department was organized in 1900 and one year later the Suffern Hook and Ladder Company was formed to assist the newly organized Hose Company in providing fire protection for the village and surrounding areas. On April 2, 1902 the board of fire commissioners signed a contract with the Seagrave Corporation to provide a hand pulled ladder truck.

After a major block fire in the downtown business district during 1915 the village residents approved the purchase of the first motorized fire truck, a model-T pumper for the Hose Company. The ladder truck was replaced in 1923 with the delivery of a Peter Pirsch city service ladder truck.

As the village continued to develop it became apparent that a longer aerial device would be required and during 1937 a Seagrave 75 foot tractor drawn aerial ladder was placed into service. This apparatus served with the Suffern Fire Department for thirty six years when it was replaced with 1973 model Seagrave 100-foot tractor drawn ladder truck. Both of these trucks were outfitted with an assortment of wooden truss ground ladders and other truck company equipment. The 1973 Seagrave was rebuilt in 1990 with additional compartments on the trailer and repowered with a Detroit Diesel engine to extend its service life for another 20 years.

New Ladder Truck Placed In Service

After an amazing 37 years of front line service the former unit numbered 19-99 was replaced with a new Seagrave Marauder II 100-foot tractor drawn ladder. The Suffern Hook and Ladder Company placed into service during 2010 has many features that have evolved over the years since their first Seagrave truck was acquired in 1937.

The new 19-99 is constructed of stainless steel with an eight-person cab built on a wheelbase of 165 inches. The apparatus is powered by a Cummins model ISM engine rated at 500 horsepower through an Allison EVS-4000 transmission.

The trailer is equipped with 14 enclosed compartments and carries an impressive array of hand tools, fans, salvage equipment and ground ladders. The unit carries the following ladders: 35-foot extension, four 28-foot extension, four 24-foot extension, a 20-foot roof, three 16-foot roof and two 10-foot folding ladders for a total of 331 feet.

The apparatus carries a Harrison 10 Kw hydraulic generator with three Hannay cable reels and Fire Research scene lighting provided on the back of the tractor cab, down each side of the trailer and at the rear of the tiller cab. Compartments on each side of the tractor are outfitted with forcible entry tools, extinguishers and small hand tools. As the Hook and Ladder Company had extensive experience with tool and equipment layouts on the previous tiller trucks all portable equipment was mounted inside of the body compartments using a combination of custom built brackets and ones from Performance Advantage Company.

Other apparatus operated by the ladder company include a 2002 Sutphen 95-foot aerial tower and a 1989 Spartan-Gladiator four-door cab with a Saulsbury stainless steel walk-in rescue body. The engine company operates with a 1993 American LaFrance 1250-gpm pumper together with 2005 and 2009 Seagrave pumpers which operate as the primary response units. Overall the Suffern Fire Department is a well trained and equipped organization which prides itself on maintaining the best traditions of the fire service.

TOM SHAND is a 37-year veteran of the fire service having served with departments in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. He has worked in the fire apparatus industry since 1985, including 15 years with Saulsbury Fire Apparatus. He is a contributing editor to Fire Apparatus Journal and Firehouse Magazine and works with Mike Wilbur at Emergency Vehicle Response. He co-hosts the Apparatus Architects podcast with Wilbur, based on their column in Firehouse Magazine.

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