Fire engines: A look at what's new

Technology and functionality are constantly changing, and pumpers are no different; here are some of the latest developments on the market

The fire apparatus business in the United States is extremely competitive, but then, you already knew that. The fire apparatus manufacturers are also a very innovative bunch who are constantly looking at ways to build pumping apparatus that meets the tactical needs for fire suppression, rescue, EMS, hazmat, wildland-urban interface fires, etc.

They also want to build rigs that protect the vehicle's occupants while in motion and provide for safe operations once on scene. Let's take a look at some of the latest innovations being offered on pumping apparatus by some of the major manufacturers starting with occupant safety.

E-ONE's ProTech system for occupant protection uses a safety technology package that includes front, side and knee driver and officer airbags and side airbags in the crew cab.

The Advanced Protection System from Spartan Chassis has eight airbags that protect the driver and officer. And, they are up to seven times larger than those found in other fire apparatus, which Spartan says offers better protection for different sized passengers.

In the crew cab Spartan uses full curtain airbags that cover the entire side widow thus preventing ejection of an occupant through the window.

Beyond the airbags, APS includes a smarter lap and shoulder belt retractor that initially pulls the occupant back into their seat when an event begins to ensure maximum protection. As the event proceeds, the retractor then eases off on the belt tensioning to minimize blunt force trauma to the occupant from the belts.

Spartan's satellite-sensor-controlled airbag deployment system brings all the components together. This part of APS uses satellite sensors located on the perimeter of the crew cab to constantly monitor the vehicle's chassis for impact force.

Several manufacturers are including collision-mitigation technology into their apparatus. The collision mitigation system from E-ONE uses a 360-degree camera system, backup sensors, G4 electronic stability control, CrewGuard occupant detection system, and its structural roll cage cab.

Ferrara's MVP pumper features low step heights, frame rail height hose cross-lays, a lower hose bed and lowered body height to make it easier to retrieve equipment. Additionally, ladders, backboards, pike poles and like equipment are stored in a "through the booster tank" compartment.

Pierce has brought ladders down to size — the height of many firefighters — with their chest-height ladder storage. They've also added fold-down, angled ladders for safer climbing access to the topside of the apparatus.

Heavy extrication equipment got you down? Manufacturers have created compartment space for your extrication equipment in the front bumper. At least one manufacturer, Ferrara, has made it large enough to keep your tools pre-connected. 

Add an HID brow light and you're ready to begin extrication as soon as you arrive on scene.

Pump it up
All manufacturers offer side-, rear, and top-mount options for the pump operator's panel. Rosenbauer takes it to another level with its enclosed operator's panel — located in the vehicle's crew cab — that protects the operator from outside weather conditions, improves scene visibility and comfortably seats four.

Ferrara's MVP pumper has available pump and roll with a transmission PTO driven pump. Feeding back into the mid-ship pump discharges, you can flow 330 gpm through two 1¾-inch hand lines at 80 psi while driving an easy 2.5 mph.

To meet the unique apparatus needs for those departments that protect WUI areas, E-ONE offers its Urban Interface version of its eMAX configuration. The features include a galvanized frame, 20-degree angle of approach and departure, front skid plates, fuel tank brush guard, low-profile bumper turret, and optional hydraulic pump and roll.

That's not been done before
I'm a big proponent of designing the apparatus for the tactical operations it will have to support. The Pierce PUC is a potential industry-changing multi-purpose response vehicle that's after my own heart.

This tilt-cab vehicle eliminates the pump house so you can build your apparatus around your needs and not the pump. It minimizes the vehicular space used for fire suppression and maximizes the space for tools and equipment. Yet it still provides big pump, foam and CAFS capabilities. 

Pierce can put PUC on a 162-inch extra-short-body pumper, a 177-inch short-body pumper, a 189-inch medium-body pumper, or a 214-inch long-body pumper.

The HME Ahrens-Fox CNG is the first fire, EMS and rescue response vehicle powered 100 percent by a clean-emission, compressed natural-gas engine. The CNG meets all present EPA emission standards without exotic filters or exhaust gas treatment devices.

While the CNG's engine may be innovative and unusual, the quality and capability of this CNG fire apparatus is not — it carries all the design features, capabilities and engineering found in HME's other pumpers.

And that would include the HME MAD DOG CAFS. This patented compressed air foam system eliminates adjustments of foam proportioning and air injection valves. 

The pump operator simply charges the CAFS line with water, activates the foam system and pushes the CAFS button. The MAD DOG instantly supplies 150 gpm of fire smothering, long-range compressed air foam.

Everyone is looking for stronger and longer-lasting fire apparatus, right? What happens when there is nothing else you can put on the apparatus body to make it stronger? 

If you're Smeal, you look at what's underneath it. Smeal's engineers and designers started with the idea of isolating the body from the frame to prevent undue stress, incorporated the tank cradle and ultra strong tow eye into the design, and constructed it with 36,000 psi galvanized steel.

Then they added thick rubber isolation blocks, spring-loaded supports and a dissimilar-metal-isolating polypropylene material to create the ultimate substructure.

To get the most out of any piece of apparatus and all the operational and safety features we have to use them according to the manufacturers recommendations. The most important safety feature on any piece of fire apparatus doesn't come from any manufacturer — it's you.  

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