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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Challenges of attempting to retrofit vehicles

As a recent NIOSH report demonstrates, tinkering with vehicles can have severe unintended consequences

By Adam K. Thiel

One of the great things about firefighters is our ability to make do with less.

This quality is certainly being tested as fire departments around the nation struggle to continue providing essential fire and emergency services to their communities — with limited resources.

Vehicles are an area where many departments try to save money by deferring maintenance, extending planned replacement intervals, or retrofitting general purpose vehicles to perform specialized tasks.

As this story demonstrates, however, tinkering with vehicles can have severe unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, like too many of the causes of firefighter deaths and injuries, this is not a new issue.

Several years ago the United States Fire Administration published a report titled: Safe Operation of Fire Tankers (tenders).

Among other things, this document highlights the challenges of attempting to retrofit vehicles originally designed for other purposes into fire department apparatus.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.


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