WFC News

Posted: Dec 5, 2014

Department Builds Custom Tanker on Caterpillar Chassis

The Lacon-Sparland (IL) Fire Protection District needed to replace a 1990 front-mount pump Ford 3,000-gallon tanker and had a list of requirements for its new vehicle.
Alan M. Petrillo   Alan M. Petrillo

Specifically, Lacon-Sparland's truck committee wanted a minimum 500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) midmount pump, a larger water tank, plenty of compartment space to allow for additional equipment storage in the future, and a closer cab-to-water-tank fit. And, the district wanted it all on a Caterpillar (CAT) chassis.

"Our Ford tanker was 24 years old and had a steel tank, so it was good timing for us to replace it," says Brian Snyder, Lacon-Sparland's chief. "For this vehicle, we didn't go out to bid but instead sat down with Stan Froelich, the salesman at Alexis, to see what they could do for us."

Snyder points out that Jeff Morris, the president of Alexis, sat in on spec meetings and helped make things happen for the fire district. "We wanted a tank that was closer to the cab so there was no gap between the two," Snyder notes. "So, Alexis worked with the tank manufacturer and customized the tank so it fit the way we wanted. We also wanted to try to build it on a Caterpillar chassis."

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Froelich says the Lacon-Sparland tanker is one of the first fire trucks in the country to be built on a CAT chassis. "The fire district spec'd out the chassis, and we gave them the wheelbase and weight distribution engineering, which they took to Altorfer Inc., the authorized CAT dealer in Peoria, to have the chassis built."

The resulting vehicle is mounted on a CAT CT660S two-door tandem chassis with a 66,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and a 219-inch wheelbase; an overall length of 31 feet, five inches; and an overall height of 10 feet, four inches. The tanker is powered by a CT14 410-horsepower diesel engine and CAT CX31 automatic transmission. It carries a 3,500-gallon elliptical polypropylene water tank with a stainless steel wrap.

Snyder points out that his truck committee compared the CAT chassis and 13-liter diesel engine to a Peterbilt chassis with a comparable engine and ultimately decided to go with the CAT product. "We have a locking differential and locking rear end on the driveline that allow us to get across less stable ground-rocky areas, gravel, dirt, and snow," Snyder says. "We are able to lock all the rear wheels together on the tandem axle."

The tanker also carries a 4,000-gallon portable tank bladder on the right side of the tanker, accessed using a Zico electric rack. "We're very happy with the way everything is laid out on the vehicle, especially how there is plenty of storage that we can grow into," Snyder notes.

Froelich says the Alexis tanker has a customized Whelen red split lens LED warning light package all around on the vehicle. "There's also a 2½-inch preconnected hose tray above the dump valve at the rear, as well as a dead-hoselay tray below the dump valve. The back end also has a color backup camera and

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Posted: Dec 5, 2014

Five Questions

Chris Mc Loone

Dan Peters   Dan Peters
President and CEO, E-ONE

1. Could you provide a background on the recent exclusive agreement between E-ONE and Bronto Skylift?

Bronto and E-ONE have a long history-at one point being sister companies as part of the Federal Signal Corporation. Federal Signal approached us recently and wanted to make a change to their representation in North America. The first place they came to is us because of the past relationship. As we spoke with our dealers and our customers who had experienced the product, we saw that there is a natural fit and an opportunity for us to help our dealers out from a parts-and-service standpoint and also be available for our customers who have their products.

In the years we haven't represented the product, Bronto has done a tremendous job of enhancing their product and we're excited about selling it.

A lot of people don't know that although we were not representing the product in North America on the municipal fire side of the business, we have maintained our relationship with Bronto though our exclusive distribution rights in Saudi Arabia. So, we're very familiar with the product. It's not a leap for us to get back into it. There are a lot of Bronto/E-ONEs out in the marketplace, and we're proud to have them back as a partner and excited about where we think that goes.

2. How has the redesigned Quest chassis been received?

Our expectations have been exceeded. When we went into it, we had one simple expectation: to take a product that we had introduced several years before and, quite honestly, fix it. It was a product that had some issues that customers quickly brought to the forefront when we first introduced it several years ago. So, the original expectation we had was to improve on those shortcomings. What we found, though, was that as we started to really get into the product and talk to customers about what we had done, there was a lot of excitement over it.

On the surface it looks like we've given it a really cool modern look. In the fire service that's a 50/50 coin flip. I've been at trade shows since then, and firefighters walk up and, quite honestly, say that's ugly and walk away. And, there are firefighters and fire officers who say that's really cool and want to see the rest of the product. That really isn't what we were trying to accomplish. What we were trying to accomplish is what we did inside. We tried to listen to what customers said in terms of room, space, storage, and visibility. Those are all the real features that we believe not only enhance the Quest but that we're looking to take across all of our chassis offerings.

So, we're very excited about what the product is, and the best feedback we've gotten is orders. I don't think we had any magical expectation that we'd sell lots of them, and we've sold quite a few. I would say right now that every third cab going down the cab line is probably a Quest. In a lot of cases, those are existing orders or existing customers who have come in and have seen it and upgraded their orders. In other cases, I think it's an opportunity for us to have a conversation with a non-E-ONE customer who in the past we haven't had that conversation with.

3. Is there anything you can comment on regarding any other new product developments besides the Quest?

We have invested in people, we've invested in resources, and we've invested in tools. As an example, we've added an external engineering group in Pennsylvania-a whole group of engineering talent well recognized in the industry, and we are very excited to have them on the team.

Everything we are doing is because we lis

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Posted: Dec 5, 2014

Developments in Fireground Portable Radios

Portable radios often serve as lifelines that link firefighters with commanders either outside of a structure or at out-of-sight distances away from their location. Manufacturers have made great strides in portable radio design for the fireground, building in features that several years ago would have only been available on a wish list.

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By Alan M. Petrillo

Improvements in speaker microphones, background noise suppression, more robust housings, wider interoperability for better compatibility among radio types, longer battery life, better ergonomic design, special color schemes, and the addition of global positioning system (GPS) functionality have made portable radios much more effective tools for firefighters, their officers, and incident commanders.

Tactilely Unique

Dhiren Chauhan, fire and EMS marketing manager for Motorola Solutions Inc., says that Motorola's APX radio is its P25 flagship line designed solely for first responders and government officials. "The portable radios are designed to be used with a gloved hand and have a tactility that is different from other radios," Chauhan says. "The design allows for a better grip on the radio, which has a larger over-mold on the top housing that provides an extra layer of protection from bumps. The portable has a T-grip to make it non slip and rubber texture in certain areas also to provide a nonslip surface."

Chauhan notes that Motorola's APX portables use Gorilla glass in the display, which is a type of glass treated to withstand scratches and other abuse. "We also designed larger knobs on the APX, including a large emergency activation button three times the size of the typical emergency button," he points out. "If the radio is carried in a firefighter's turnout gear, all he has to do is touch his index finger to the top of the antenna, which leads directly to the emergency button, so there is no fumbling around for it."

The APX also includes an accelerometer and a "firefighter-down" feature that can transmit a firefighter-down warning to a commander or fire dispatch if a firefighter remains motionless for a certain period of time. Software is used to define the time motionless, Chauhan says, as well as the firefighter's attitude-vertical motionless, horizontal motionless, or both.

"We built the loudest and clearest microphone and speaker into the APX," Chauhan notes, "with a one-watt digital speaker that's twice as loud as others. We also use noise-canceling technology and adaptive beam forming in our two microphones, front and back. The microphone closest to the mouth picks up the voice and the other one acts as a noise-canceling microphone."

Motorola also has integrated GPS into its portable APX radio as well as encryption technology. "It's important to know where firefighters are on a fireground," Chauhan says. "We transmit the GPS location through our radio network and can triangulate to locate a firefighter who might be lost, such as in a wildland fire event. Encryption is included in all our portables, and it can be turned on or off by choice of the fire department."

Motorola's APX 7000 and 7000XE portables carry all of the features noted, Chauhan points out, while the 6000 and 6000XE models have a different 500-milliamp speaker and are not dual-band radios.

Short-Range Preferences

Bob Shropshire, public safety market specialist for Icom America, says his company's top P25 model is the 9011S that covers VHF, UHF, 700-, and 800-MHz f

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Posted: Dec 5, 2014

Did Your Custom Cab Come with a Big Shoehorn?

This month's column is a continuation of our discussion on seating configurations in custom fire apparatus cabs and firefighters trying to buckle their seat belts in cramped conditions.
Robert Tutterow   Robert Tutterow

This and last month's columns were prompted by several "public inputs" (formerly public proposals) to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Apparatus Technical Committee in September 2013. Interested parties submitted the public inputs to try to improve the cramped conditions.

Unfortunately, the committee rejected all of the public inputs. The reason for the rejections was the same for all: "It is not possible to build to those dimensions in the current configurations commonly used, especially in the officer's seating area." The use of the words "commonly used" is most interesting. The entire premise of the public inputs was to improve what is "commonly used."

During the second draft meeting (public comment) of the Technical Committee this past July, J. Gordon Routley, division chief, Montreal Fire Department, made an in-person plea to the committee to at least increase the minimum seat width from 22 to 28 inches. As a reminder, the substantiation for the public comment was based on detailed scientific evidence of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study titled, "Safe Seating and Seat Belts in Fire Apparatus: Anthropometric Aspect." Anthropometry deals with human body measurements. The study indicated that a minimum width of 28 inches is required to accommodate 95 percent of firefighters wearing personal protective equipment. The current 22-inch minimum accommodates just fewer than 50 percent of firefighters.

NFPA Technical Committee Decision

The committee's unanimous decision regarding increasing the width to 28 inches was to "hold for further study." What else is there to study? This is not a new issue. The committee learned of the situation more than eight years ago. And, the committee has probably never been presented with as much science-based evidence to accept a public input before. Historically, the committee has regularly used lack of scientific evidence as a reason to reject public input-and rightly so. And, it has accepted public input on anecdotal evidence-and rightly so-when it seemed entirely logical.

The committee also rejected a compromise suggestion to increase the seating width to 28 inches for just the back seats of the cab. One of the reasons was that it would eliminate 10-person cabs. How many emergency responses are made each year with 10 firefighters on board? Maybe it happens occasionally if a volunteer or combination department is having a training session at the station when it receives a call.

The discussion in the meeting room was puzzling to say the least. The truth, as stated on more than one occasion, is that there are custom apparatus on the market today that meet the proposed 28-inch minimum seat width standard. Granted, there are very few. Yet with every mention of this fact, the room collectively ignored the statement. It was like one of those political television talk shows when one side "nails the other side." The other side ignores the "nailing" and quickly diverts the discussion. More disturbing were the position and comments from the fire service representatives on the committee. Except for one comment, they were in "lock step" with the position against the proposed 28-inch minimum.

Defending Manufacturers

In defense of fire apparatus manufacturers, they are not in an easy position. Environmental Protection Agency

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Posted: Dec 5, 2014

Manueverability, Compartmentation Key Features of Tractor-Drawn Aerials

Tractor-drawn aerials (TDAs) were prevalent many years ago in fire department fleets, but fell out of favor to rear-mount and midmount straight-frame aerials.

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By Alan M. Petrillo

Yet today, TDAs continue to be used by many departments for a variety of reasons, including maneuverability, storage capacity, ground ladder carrying ability, and faster setup time at a fire scene.


Tim Smits, senior sales manager of fleet management for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says a TDA is one of the most versatile pieces of aerial apparatus in a fire department's arsenal of vehicles. "A TDA has excellent maneuverability, and with an experienced crew, there's virtually no place you can't take the TDA because of its fifth wheel articulation and the ability to steer the rear of the apparatus around obstacles," he says.

Often, the area covered by a TDA's ladder is greater than a department could achieve with a straight-frame rear-mount ladder. "Brevard County (FL) has a 100-foot Pierce TDA that they took out on a training scenario at a hotel property that had an enclosed garage in front of the structure," Smits says. "There was only a two-car-width area in front where you couldn't position a rear-mount, so they maneuvered their TDA in so they could cover the whole front of the structure. They parked the TDA in the center and were able to hit every floor and balcony, and when they tried it with the rear-mount backed in as close as it could get, they only could hit one quarter of the structure."

Dave Perkins, aerial specialist for E-ONE, points out that besides maneuverability, carrying larger complements of ground ladders and having more compartmentation are big advantages of a TDA compared with a straight-frame aerial ladder. "Maneuverability seems to be the biggest benefit of a TDA over even a single-axle straight-frame ladder," Perkins says, "but another thing we're seeing propel fire departments toward TDAs is they are more concerned about carrying more ground ladders. In addition, there's more cubic feet of compartmentation, so departments are able to use the TDA as a specialized truck company and have its hazmat or water rescue components on the vehicle."

Pete Hoherchak, aerial products manager for KME, agrees with Smits's and Perkins's assessments. "With a TDA, the purpose of steering from the rear is maneuverability where the vehicle is able to get around in tight city streets," Hoherchak says. "Where the tractor goes, the tiller can follow."

Compartmentation is another critical benefit of a TDA, he adds. "A typical rear-mount ladder has a minimum allowance of 2,500 pounds of equipment," Hoherchak notes. "On a TDA, it's the same minimum requirement by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), but most departments are able to put between 5,000 and 8,000 pounds of equipment on the vehicle because of the space available and the fact that the TDA can handle it."

On the ground ladder issue, Hoherchak says a typical straight-frame aerial ladder will carry 115 feet of ground ladders, while a TDA will easily carry more than 200 feet of ground ladders.


Chuck Glagola, aerial sales manager for Smeal Fire Apparatus, notes that TDA disadvantages includ

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