WFC News

Posted: Sep 5, 2013

Is This How You Treat Your Chainsaw at Home?

By Raul A. Angulo

Take a good look at the face in photo 1 and memorize that expression. Make sure it leaves an imprint on your mind. This is Stan Wainscott. He is the 22-year veteran and fire service specialist (master repair technician) in the Seattle (WA) Fire Department's (SFD) Services Division. Every fire department has a Stan Wainscott. These are the guys who fix all the equipment we break. When Wainscott is wearing this face, it's usually accompanied by one of the following remarks:

• What were you knuckleheads cutting with this saw, battleships?
• The city actually pays you guys for destroying this equipment?
• Do you know how much this costs?
• This is destroyed! It doesn't need fixing, it needs to be replaced!
• Is this how you treat your power equipment at home?

It's not good when that face is matched with one of the above remarks. The company officer will have some explaining to do, and it's usually through a letter to the fire chief. Equipment repair costs are extremely expensive and siphon money away from the budget that could be used to purchase additional specialized equipment, like a new thermal imaging camera with the latest technology.

Stan Wainscott

(1) Stan Wainscott is the 22-year veteran of the Seattle (WA)
Fire Department Services Division who fixes all the stuff we
break. You don't want Wainscott to look at you like this.
(Photos by author.)


It's hard to attach a figure to the money that is wasted to repair damaged equipment because of a lack of regular maintenance, poor maintenance, or no maintenance. The core issue could be laziness, lack of pride and ownership, or ignorance. Either way, it boils down to a lack of professionalism.

Core Equipment

The chainsaw is one tool that gets a lot of use by firefighters. It's the work horse for truck company operations. It's also one of the tools that needs to be cleaned and fueled after every use, but sometimes that doesn't get done. There are lots of makes and models out there, so the first thing you need to do is read and follow the owner's manual, especially the instructions for recommended maintenance. It's a good guess that firefighters don't read the owner's manual on power tools they're familiar with. Many of us own chainsaws, so we sometimes assume everyone knows how to use one and clean one. Not so. When senior firefighters show the new guy the saws, some might give the "quick start" version and take shortcuts to proper orientation. The result is new firefighters don't get properly trained because important information was left out. As they train newer firefighters, they pass on only the information they know, which was incomplete to start with. Then when equipment gets damaged, you get the proverbial excuse, "Well no one ever showed me that."

damaged cylinder heads

(2) Here's an example of damaged cylinder heads from cutting
tar roofs. When cutting wood, debris flies right through the
cooling fins. However, the chainsaw's running temperature is
110°F. That is hot enough to melt tar debris right to the fins.


Unlike the circular rescue saws, which use a flat-edged carbide tip blade (not a tearing tooth), the chainsaw carbide tip blades are alternately set at 45 degrees so they make a jagged cut. This ripping saw is the most dangerous tool in the fire service. Without proper training and handling, it can ruin your career in five sec

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Posted: Sep 5, 2013

Rescue Truck Designs Reflect Multipurpose Trends

Alan M. Petrillo

Not many firefighters agree on the perfect design for a rescue truck, chiefly because the design depends on a fire department's particular needs. Thus, manufacturers are turning out a wide variety of rescue truck styles, from traditional walk-around rescues that serve as huge toolboxes to walk-in rescues that offer interior access, to combination units and rescue-pumpers. In effect, a rescue truck design these days is up to the imagination of the department and its vehicle manufacturer.

tandem-axle combination walk-in and walk-around heavy rescue truck

(1) Pierce Manufacturing built this tandem-axle combination
walk-in and walk-around heavy rescue truck for the Bound
Brook (NJ) Rescue Squad. (Photo courtesy of Pierce



Eddie L. Smith, director of the emergency vehicles group at VT Hackney, says that the economy and technological changes in the past few years have affected the design and definition of a traditional rescue truck. "Not many decades ago, a rescue truck was an anomaly in fire departments except in large city departments," Smith says. "Many fire departments didn't do auto extrication, technical rescue, or hazardous materials work. But as they started doing those activities, we saw rescues go from a squad that was a small truck carrying some tools and first-aid equipment to today's heavy rescues where sometimes manufacturers are hard pressed to get all the equipment on the truck that the department wants."

Smith thinks that tight budgets and staffing cuts have caused a transition from heavy rescues to rescue-pumpers and combination vehicles. "I don't think heavy rescues will go away any time soon but believe we'll see more of their use with regional response teams."

walk-around rescue truck that includes a Burner Fire Control stored energy compressed air foam system

(2) The Jessup (PA) Hose Co. turned to KME to build this
walk-around rescue truck that includes a Burner Fire Control
stored energy compressed air foam system (CAFS). (Photo
courtesy of KME.)


As an example of a traditional heavy rescue still being in favor, Smith points out a heavy rescue Hackney recently built for the Ayden (NC) Fire Department, a small bedroom community that also protects a large DuPont industrial plant. "That rescue is on a Spartan MetroStar chassis and carries a cascade air system, rehab equipment, air bags, hydraulic rescue tools, a full ground ladder complement, a 25-kW Harrison hydraulic generator, a light tower, and high-amp cord reels to extend their lighting well beyond the truck. That vehicle is ready for anything."

Smaller Options

On the flip side of rescue truck design, some departments are opting for smaller and lighter rigs. Todd Nix, apparatus consultant for Unruh Fire, says that when the economy tanked in 2008, a lot of fire departments moved toward smaller chassis rescues. "They turned to Fords and Dodges, particularly the Ford F-550 chassis with a crew cab," Nix says. "Many of those trucks carry a medium-duty Hale HBX 200 or Darley 2BE 200- to 250-gpm pump on them and around 300 gallons of water. With a 10-foot rescue box, we can still get all the extrication and medical equipment on the vehicle so that it becomes a multipurpose unit for the department."

Nix says that the smaller rescues are being purchased by fire d

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Posted: Sep 5, 2013

Preparing for Rescues

By Richard Marinucci

Fire departments have always been in the rescue business. Mostly rescues have been fire-related, but because of the assets, response times, and firefighters' talents, the fire service has been called to virtually any situation that requires a rescue. It was not too long ago that the success of these rescues relied on the tools traditionally carried by fire departments to address fires and the creativity of firefighters to improvise during an emergency. Much has changed as equipment has been developed for specific circumstances, standards have been developed, and training has evolved to learn and practice particular skills related to the situations and available tools.

Anticipate and Assess

To properly prepare for potential rescues, departments need to anticipate the potential of various rescue situations that could occur in their response districts. Some are very obvious such as fires and vehicle crashes. There is a list of others, not all of which apply. For example, unless you live in a cold weather climate, ice rescues are not something that you need to consider. If you have no fast moving water, preparation for swift water rescues is not necessary.

Taking this a bit further, departments should also consider the likelihood of certain events and determine the best way to prepare for possible, but not likely, events. These could be incidents like industrial hazmat emergencies in communities with few industrial plants. Though a historical review may indicate the risk is low, a department or possibly the entire community must have a method to address mishaps or more serious incidents.

After completing an assessment, review applicable standards. This includes any legal mandates or governmental requirements such as those mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or others. There are also industry standards, most notably those published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These documents identify the methods to employ for specific rescue situations. They will include equipment needs, training requirements, and safety considerations. Failure to follow legal directives or acceptable standards will cause problems after the incident-even if the outcome is good. There is an expectation that organizations that know the types of calls that may require a response are prepared for said responses.


Human resources are needed for all rescues-that is, people are needed to make sure that rescues are executed efficiently and effectively. Based on anticipated emergencies, recommended standards, and rules, a certain number of responders is required. Departments need to realistically determine not only if they have the human resources but also if there is adequate talent for the jobs to be done. As an example, departments that are considering water rescue may need to have certified SCUBA divers. It is not just a case of having a person available but one that has the necessary skills. Departments also need to consider other available resources. Some rescue situations require heavy equipment that is rarely part of a fire department's fleet. This equipment could be available from other governmental agencies, like departments of public works or from the private sector. This equipment probably requires specially trained people to use it. The time to find these resources is not after a call to 911 has been made.


Many of the specialty rescue operations continually evolve based on new methods and equipment and tool developments. Departments must continually monitor the state of the art and be aware of improvements. This is done through active engagement in the profession. Regularly review periodicals and Web sites. Consider attending trade shows to see the latest and greatest firsthand. Often a network of like-minded professionals is beneficial in sharing ideas. A tr

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Posted: Sep 5, 2013

Apparatus Purchasing: Front Bumper Preconnects

Bill Adams

Numerous apparatus manufacturers now offer custom cabs and chassis with preconnected hoselines located on front bumper extensions. I take no side in using front bumpers to store preconnects and show no preference if they are used for structural attack, vehicle fires, or trash lines for nuisance fires. Those are local decisions. The apparatus photographed herein were built to each department's specifications for the particular requirements of their individual response areas.

This article looks at their layouts from a broad perspective for the entire marketplace and is not intended to disparage any design, manufacturer, or end user. The intent is to help the next purchaser specify and lay out a new rig. First time users who spec a bumper preconnect without doing research may be doing a disservice to their fire department and an injustice to the taxpayers who foot the bill. Considering the investment to extend a bumper; fabricate storage space; and provide the accoutrements, controls, and plumbing for it, a bumper preconnect probably costs more "dollars per gallon delivered" than same sized discharges located elsewhere on the apparatus. Todd McBride, apparatus specialist for Rosenbauer-America, says it's approximately $1,800 to extend a front bumper with hose wells and about $1,650 to add a two-inch discharge-a $3,450 investment to deliver about 200 gallons per minute (gpm).

removable tray on a pumper

(1) This removable tray on a pumper for Alexandria, Virginia, is set
close to the cab fascia. Lift-to-turn D-ring latches on each end enable
quick removal of the tray when tilting the cab. (Photo courtesy by


Purchasers address bumper preconnects three ways. One is based on past experience. The department has one, likes the way it works, and wants to replicate it. That has merit. Another is to purposely design them to be job-specific. That shows planning, initiative, and foresight. The third way may lack judgment and astuteness. As an example, a neighboring department might have one, and the apparatus purchasing committee (APC) thinks it's a good idea. It specs one without giving much thought to it. If there is no rhyme or reason to the decision, it's like buying a pair of shoes without first trying them on. You hope they fit. Good luck.

Vendors are obligated to ensure the components they recommend to an APC will actually meet the APC's expectations. Rather than placating an APC, vendors should be asking pertinent questions to enable the APC to make informed decisions. What flow is expected? Is it foam-capable? Will it be used for initial attack? How much hose is to be carried? How do you plan to deploy it? Purchasers must be made aware of any impact on the overall apparatus length, wall-to-wall and curb-to-curb turning radii, the angle of approach, and overall weight distribution. By the way, how much will it cost, and is it cost-effective? McBride explains that a 2½-inch bumper discharge costs about 15 percent more than a two-inch discharge with a net gain of 50 percent more water. It seems incomprehensible that an APC would consider a front bumper preconnect without addressing pertinent firematic and financial issues.

Crosslays laid flat on this cab and chassis

(2) Crosslays laid flat on this cab and chassis look neat but could be
awkward to deploy. It is essential to remove all trapped air and water
before repacking to ensure covers close completely. Hose
connections are rec Read more

Posted: Sep 5, 2013

VDRs: Underutilized Tools in Every New Fire Apparatus

By David Durstine
VP, Akron Brass Company

The most current edition of NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, went into effect in January 2010 and included a number of new requirements improving fire apparatus performance, reliability, and safety. One of those safety provisions placed a mandatory requirement that all apparatus compliant with NFPA 1901 include a vehicle data recorder (VDR) similar to the "black box" on an aircraft. VDRs record a number of modern apparatus parameters, including vehicle speed, acceleration, deceleration, engine speed, throttle position, antilock braking system (ABS) events, seat occupied status, seat belt status, master optical warning device switch position, time, date, and other data.

Many fire industry leaders were the driving force behind this VDR requirement as a solution to help with one of the most disastrous and preventable problems facing today's fire service. All too often we hear or read about firefighters being injured or killed as a result of vehicular accidents involving fire apparatus. In most cases, these accidents were and are preventable. When used as a proactive tool, the VDR, combined with a proper operator training program and continuous improvement, can be of real value to your department.

Two Ways to See It

Some city officials, fire officers, and firefighters might argue this requirement from both sides of the fence. If the VDR records an accident and can confirm safe, responsible driving, then they would probably love the indisputable data. On the other hand, if this data pointed to irresponsible operation, then the opposite would be true. Both viewpoints were part of regular discussions at NFPA 1901 meetings leading up to the revised standard. At the time, it was shared with me and others numerous times leading up to finalizing the current NFPA 1901 revision that since 1992 all electronic engines have had a last incident reporting system onboard, which could be downloaded by engine manufacturers using special software. These incident reporting systems captured much more data than VDRs with the exception of master warning lights, seat occupancy, and seat belt status. This knowledge helped reinforce the fact that the data were there whether we wanted them or not. Today's VDRs simply provide fire departments with easy access to the data and in a way that can be used proactively to help save lives.

VDR Types

There are numerous VDR manufacturers and suppliers. All have very similar devices with some level of differentiation between each. But, two things are very consistent: They all record the same NFPA-required data and they all make it accessible for you to use and be proactive with. Rick Fix, of Fire Research Corporation, states, "As for VDR usage, most departments I have seen with them only download from them when they have an incident, not realizing that they have a great tool to monitor driver and firefighter safety." Pete Luhrs, with Weldon, a division of Akron Brass, says, "The intent of adding the VDR and seat belt indicator to fire trucks is to promote safety. Too many good men and women get hurt each year on their way to and from scenes. However, one of the cool features available is that this information can be used for troubleshooting a vehicle issue as well."

Using VDR Data

Are you really getting the most out of your VDR? I would like to share a personal experience regarding my department. We rarely look at our VDR data. As a small volunteer department, we really don't have the time and resources to download and evaluate the data. However, a couple of months ago my chief asked me to download the VDR data from our engine and provide him with some key pieces of information.

More precisely, as I probed more details from him, he

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