WFC News

Posted: Mar 5, 2015

NFPA Proposed Pump-and-Roll Firefighting Position

1 One tactic for fighting fine-fuels fires involves a firefighter riding on the apparatus exterior aiming a water stream directly at the base of the fire. Apparatus used for this tactic typically include a platform behind the cab where a firefighter can stand. (Photo courtesy of Blanchat Mfg. Inc
1 One tactic for fighting fine-fuels fires involves a firefighter riding on the apparatus exterior aiming a water stream directly at the base of the fire. Apparatus used for this tactic typically include a platform behind the cab where a firefighter can stand. (Photo courtesy of Blanchat Mfg. Inc.)

By Roger Lackore

Every three to five years, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Apparatus Committee considers revisions to NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus. This document sets minimum standards for the design of apparatus intended mainly for fighting wildland fires.

The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers' Association (FAMA) participates in this process with one representative on the committee and several more representatives from FAMA member companies.

Differing Tactics

A major challenge to setting wildland apparatus design standards is the tremendously varied environments where wildfires can occur. The tactics used in sparsely populated mountainous regions may be very different from those used in flat forest lands and different again in the fine-fuels areas of the plains states. As with most things in life, the one-size-fits-all approach is likely to be a compromise that leaves nobody happy.

One example of this is a tactic that departments in fine-fuels regions employ where a firefighter rides on the apparatus exterior while it is in motion. The apparatus drives along the fire line and a firefighter aims a water stream directly at the base of the fire. Usually a second or third apparatus follows to mop up. Departments that employ this tactic argue that it is both a safe and essential method where the terrain is flat, the fuel is fine, and the fire line moves quickly. In some cases, such fires can be allowed to burn out on their own; in other cases, they may threaten populated areas.

Fine-Fuels Apparatus Design

Apparatus used for this tactic typically include a platform behind the cab where a firefighter can sit or stand and manually direct a water stream. These apparatus may be offered by smaller apparatus manufacturers or created by modifying existing apparatus. Military surplus vehicles are favorite starting points for some departments. The lack of any design guidance has left no assurance that departments are meeting minimum safety standards or that a vehicle's size or tank capacity makes it appropriate for traveling on uneven terrain.

For decades, the NFPA approach has been to simply prohibit riding on an apparatus unless all occupants are in a seated and belted position inside an enclosed cab. Both NFPA design standards and NFPA health and safety standards emphasize this. As such, departments convinced that the external riding method is necessary have been purchasing or creating their own apparatus that fall outside of NFPA standards.

Incorporating the Tactic

The NFPA 1906 committee exhaustively discussed the merits and hazards of this approach. There was no argument that the safest place for a firefighter is in a seated and belted position inside an enclosed cab, but given the fact that the practice is so prevalent in certain regions, the committee's consensus was that it needed to do something. The compromise was to provide an apparatus specification that would increase the safety of an already established practice rather than continue to leave the safety of the apparatus t

Read more
Posted: Mar 5, 2015

Conducting an Apparatus Needs Analysis

Click here to view the image gallery.

By Mark Miller

Conducting a thorough apparatus needs analysis is the essential first step to ensure the apparatus being purchased will fit the community it will protect. Departments must take several community-specific considerations into account to ensure the apparatus will be operationally effective not only for the short term but for its entire service life. This needs analysis will further serve as the basis to justify the expenditure to a municipality's elected and appointed officials during the procurement process. Although many communities appear to be similar, each has its own specific intricacies that require a detailed analysis prior to beginning the specification process.

What Is It?

An apparatus needs analysis is the process used to identify and evaluate needs that are specific to a community that the apparatus protects. Many departments aren't afforded the opportunity to regularly replace fire apparatus. Therefore, it is essential that departments use a systematic process of identifying a community's specific needs. By conducting an apparatus needs analysis, they can ensure they purchase apparatus based on their community-specific needs and not personal wants. This process has been successfully used on all types of units including advanced life support (ALS) transport vehicles, tenders, pumpers, aerials, and heavy rescues.

Community-specific needs include a community's setting, such as urban, suburban, and rural, or any combination of the three. The community's geography, topography, population density, development densities, and previous incident data are also factors to include. Furthermore, consider the forecasted use of undeveloped land. Although zoning restrictions are subject to change, zoning commissions usually have an idea of how much latitude they are willing to give developers. Last, take municipal water supply considerations into account. Each of these specific needs comes with its own inherent challenges for a fire department to overcome to ensure its constituency gets a piece of apparatus that can safely, efficiently, and effectively mitigate incidents.

Community-specific needs will help departments determine maximum height, weight, overall length, wheelbase, cramp angle, and angle of approach and departure requirements. Topography can aid in specifying engine torque, braking system requirements, and outrigger penetration requirements. Population density will aid departments in forecasting expected call volume and traffic congestion. Development density aids in determining hoseline types and lengths and portable and aerial ladder requirements. Development setbacks also vary widely among communities and must be taken into account. Data collected from previous incidents can identify the types and quantity of calls a unit will most likely respond to during its tenure. This data can also help crews recall what has worked with a current unit and what could make their service delivery easier in the street. Last, municipal water supply considerations will help determine the amount of water a unit must carry. This will also aid in the amount of water needed on auxiliary units such as tankers/tenders.

Fire Department

The fire department's capabilities are also an important component of an apparatus needs analysis. Staffing, station distribution, and mutual-aid availability are ex

Read more
Posted: Mar 5, 2015

Problems Lying in Wait?

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a keynote by Gordon Graham recently. During his presentation, he spoke about his specialty-risk management.

He applied risk management to apparatus operation, maintenance, and training. Graham discussed the many facets of risk management and how risk managers study tragedies to identify their causes to prevent future tragedies. However, he asserts that not enough people have been taught that a given tragedy has multiple causes: proximate, contributory, root, and problems lying in wait. The problems lying in wait are what got me thinking.

The Debbie Downers among us will take a look at problems lying in wait and identify numerous items at their own fire departments within seconds. It will always be that way, and there is nothing we can do about that. But, when you put those numerous items through a strainer, some actual problems lying in wait might emerge, so it's never a good idea to dismiss the complainers.

By identifying problems lying in wait, a department is actually predicting potential issues before they occur and should then be determining control measures to ensure they don't become causes for tragedies. Basically, Graham sums this up by saying that predictable is preventable.

Do we have problems lying in wait in the fire service? We sure do. From the health and safety side, we have stations without diesel exhaust systems in which our walls and often our personal protective equipment are coated with a layer of diesel soot-an identified carcinogen. And, we have firefighters who are not physically fit enough to do the jobs they are called on to perform. Don't misunderstand-I'm not talking about overweight firefighters here. I'm what some would call "lanky." To look at me, one probably would not think I have any potential health issues that would bring me down during or following a fire where I am humping hose, clearing windows, carrying equipment up ladders, or removing fire victims. I get my annual physicals, including bloodwork to ensure my cholesterol isn't too high and my blood sugar is in a good zone.

But, what about firefighters out there built like me who do not get their physicals? What problems lying in wait are there for them? You can be skinny as a rail, but lack of exercise and conditioning along with a questionable diet could be the problem lying in wait that could quite frankly kill you.

On the apparatus side of the equation, the fire service has been experiencing a fair amount of apparatus accidents in recent months and, in 2014, preliminary figures indicate that the second leading cause of line-of-duty deaths was vehicle crashes-sometimes in personal vehicles responding to the firehouse and sometimes resulting from apparatus crashes. What are the problems lying in wait there? Is it poor driver training? Is it lack of strong leadership from the officer's seat? Is it undisciplined driving practices? If your driver training program is poor, that speaks for itself. If the officer "riding the seat" won't tell his driver to slow down, that's a problem lying in wait and a tragedy waiting to happen. Undisciplined driving practices grown from lack of leadership and poor driver training are also tragedies waiting to happen.

As I have come up through the ranks, my chief has often suggested stepping back at the scene to observe-obviously not in the heat of things. It is amazing what you see if you step back from time to time and observe what is happening vs. being in the thick of a situation. This isn't always easy in volunteer departments during the day. But, when possible, step back. What you're really doing wh

Read more
Posted: Mar 5, 2015

Mini Pumpers, Part 2: Today and the Future

Click here to view the image gallery.

By Bill Adams

"Mini Pumpers, Part 1: How Well Do They Really Work?" (September 2014) described the experiences of two fire departments with mini pumpers purchased in the 1980s.

It appears the fire service is giving mini pumpers a second look. Why? What's new? What are people purchasing? I asked apparatus manufacturers of all sizes. Their answers to some specific questions follow.

Are mini pumpers becoming popular?

Mike DuFrane, vice president, Florida Products Government Sales, Pierce Manufacturing: "Mini pumpers have an inherent size advantage over larger apparatus. We continue to see growth in mini pumper sales."

Trapper Meadors, sales engineer, Precision Fire Apparatus: "Mini pumpers can fit into very specific roles that a lot of departments have yet to see a need for. However, once the need is realized, they're perfect fits."

Mike Watts, national sales manager, Toyne Fire Apparatus: "Yes. They are finding a new purpose in the fire service."

Jim Kirvida, president, CustomFIRE: "There seems to be considerable interest, mostly for short-staffed duty crews."

Grady North, product manager, E-ONE: "The mini pumper concept is showing renewed interest."

Doug Kelley, mini pumper product manager, KME: "Yes, and growing. However, they're still a very small portion of the market overall. As a reference, there are fewer than 150 mini pumpers sold each year vs. about 2,500 to 3,000 full-size pumpers."

Joe Messmer, president, Summit Fire Apparatus: "Yes. We are finding fire departments want smaller trucks with a bigger punch. They are looking for more agile apparatus with four-wheel drive."

Are fire departments looking to accomplish specific missions with mini pumper purchases?

Kelley: "The educated customer is trying to take advantage of the mini's smaller size combined with the all-wheel-drive capability for tasks similar to accessing the backside of structures, such as garden apartments, with a master stream device; using the truck as a manifold truck up long driveways where larger trucks have a hard time accessing; using the all-wheel drive in disaster situations where roads may be partially blocked; and using the truck to access incidents in hard-to-reach locations, especially in heavy traffic or small streets."

Messmer: "They're looking for smaller trucks that weigh less and can get into tighter spots. Some departments are attempting to reduce the wear and tear on larger, more expensive apparatus to stretch the budget a little further."

Dufrane: "Departments responsible for protecting hard-to-reach areas where they can't get a traditional pumper or tanker through narrow, unpaved roads find the maneuverability of mini pumpers is an advantage. Pierce is seeing some being used as "first-out" vehicles instead of traditional pumpers. Departments with emergency medical service (EMS) responsibilities can run them with their emergency medical technicians on board."

Kirvida: "Initial response for both EMS and fire calls."

Meadors: "Smaller departments experiencing an influx of new, younger members are wanting a small unit people can feel more co

Read more
Posted: Feb 26, 2015

Memorial Information for David R Hiltwein

David Hiltwein passed away Sunday, February 22, 2015 in Kennewick, WA as the result of Scleroderma-related complications. David was born on February 26, 1952 in Pasco, WA to Leo Hiltwein and Viola Hiltwein and lived in Kennewick his entire life. He graduated from both Kennewick High School and Columbia Basin College. He proudly served as a Hanford Fire Fighter and EMT for 37 years (1974-2011). He was also a volunteer Fire Fighter with Benton County Fire District #1 for 31 years (1971-2002). He was a loyal supporter of his Union IAFF Local 1-24, where he served as the Vice President for many years.

David is remembered for his compassion, sense of humor, practical jokes, strong work ethic, teaching abilities, and steel trap memory. He loved hunting, fishing, reading, crossword puzzles, knife making, riding his Harley Davidson, attending car shows, and burning rubber in his 1967 EI Camino. He was a dedicated fan of the Seattle Seahawks and loved watching and attending football games with his friends and family...

Read more

Search News Articles