WFC News

Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Highway Incident Safety: One Department's Solution

By Robert Tutterow

This column has a personal connection because it is about my former volunteer fire department-the Center Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) in the Piedmont of North Carolina. I was an active member and chief officer with the department in the late 1970s through the late 1980s before my employment with the Charlotte (NC) Fire Department. My father was a charter member of the CVFD, which was organized in 1958.

The department is located 25 miles southwest of Winston Salem, North Carolina, along the Interstate 40 (I-40) corridor. It serves a primarily rural environment, with a commercial area on the outskirts of the response district.

I-40 runs through the middle of the district, and the department is first due to several miles (east and west) of the interstate. This portion of I-40 carries light to moderate traffic, and the posted speed limit is 70 miles per hour (mph). Because of its rural setting, motorists are often "numbed"-i.e., not paying close attention while driving. This "numbing" effect can be very hazardous to emergency responders.

This pumper was retrofitted for safety on interstate incidents.
This pumper was retrofitted for safety on interstate incidents. (Photo
by author.)

Struck Apparatus

This setting has been the scene of two major crashes during the past five years involving motorists striking CVFD vehicles. In August 2009, its new tanker-pumper, in service for just a couple of months, was struck in the rear while tending to a motor vehicle accident. The impact caused a whiplash injury to the driver/operator. And in December 2010, its Ford F-350 crew cab "quick response" vehicle was demolished by a tractor trailer. The crew was arriving on the scene of a four-vehicle accident and had slowed to about five mph while positioning to render aid. The impact of the collision flipped the CVFD vehicle 2½ times, and it came to rest on its roof. After impact, the tractor trailer proceeded to take out 465 feet of guardrail. The two CVFD firefighters inside the vehicle were injured. One suffered a concussion and knee injury, and the other suffered a broken collarbone. Both firefighters were buckled; if they had not been, they could have easily been killed.

The department has experienced several other close calls. On one occasion, charges were filed against a motorist who ran through traffic cones into an incident zone. Fortunately, there was no collision or any emergency responders struck.

This new pumper had been in service only two months when it was rear-ended
This new pumper had been in service only two months when it was
rear-ended. The driver/operator suffered minor injuries. (Photo
courtesy of the Center Volunteer Fire Department.)

Apparatus for Highway Safety

Based on the two accidents and other close calls, the department recognized it was time to reexamine its fleet and response protocol. Since its founding, the department had purchased two-door commercial cabs for its apparatus. Typically, for interstate response, only the driver/operator would be in the apparatus and everyone else responded in their privately owned vehicles (POVs). This served the department well during its first 50 years. I personally responded to this stretch of interstate in my POV or as driver/operator dozens of times.

After careful examination, the department decided it needed a crashworth

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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Clearwater, Florida, New Heavy Duty Rescue Squad

By Ricky Riley

The Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue Department (CFR) is pleased to announce the arrival of its new 2014 Pierce Velocity heavy duty rescue squad.

The purchase came under the direction of Chief Robert Weiss, and the unit serves as a front-line response vehicle to all structure fires, gas leaks, water rescues, technical rescues, and vehicle accidents with entrapment.

CFR is located on the west coast of Florida and is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. The department consists of eight fire stations and protects nearly 41 square miles of homes, industry, retirement communities, beaches, and a large tourist population. The more than 130,000 residents of Clearwater are protected by 201 personnel who operate eight engine companies, two truck companies, one heavy rescue squad, five advanced life support (ALS) rescue units, and two district chiefs.

CFR Rescue Squad 51 is built on a Pierce Velocity cab and chassis
CFR Rescue Squad 51 is built on a Pierce Velocity cab and
chassis, the standard for CFR engine company apparatus
purchases for the past four years. This ensures standardization
for all cab equipment, radio, and computer placement, along with
a common wiring and layout for the fleet services mechanics. The
heavy duty rescue body is constructed of aluminum and is a
nonwalk-in style. It is 100 inches wide to provide additional
storage capacity and is 23½ feet long. (Photos by author.)

Spec Development

In early 2012, an employee-based apparatus committee began to develop the specifications for a new rescue vehicle. The committee used the expertise and assistance of its Pierce salesperson as well as an apparatus engineer. CFR designed the requirements and desired capabilities including using a single vs. tandem axle, body compartments, engine size, onboard generator, and breathing air system needs. This approach allowed CFR to have working specifications to present to the city's fleet manager and Weiss for a streamlined approval process.

After the Clearwater mayor and city council approved the purchase, the fire department placed the order in October 2012. Pierce delivered the new apparatus in June 2013. From there, the unit was turned over to the apparatus committee for the compartment design and layout for equipment placement.

The truck features a vehicle-mounted toolbox
The truck features a vehicle-mounted
toolbox with a mechanic-grade tool
complement along with transportable tool
sets for mobile operations.

The Chassis

The unit has a Pierce Velocity cab, the standard for CFR engine company apparatus purchases for the past four years. This ensures standardization for all cab equipment, radio, and computer placement, along with a common wiring and layout for fleet services mechanics. The unit also features:

  • Cummins ISL 450-hp engine
  • Allison 3000 EVS transmission
  • Jacobs engine brake
  • Exhaust routed vertically through body to top of vehicle
  • 259-inch wheelbase
  • 56,300-pound GVWR
  • Three-person seating arrangement
  • Will Burt Night Scan Light-tower mounted on roof of cab
A Warn 9,000-pound portable winch is stored in a front bumper extensionRead more
Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Protecting Firefighters

By Richard Marinucci

During the past few years, firefighter safety awareness has become a priority for the fire service. The goal is to significantly reduce unnecessary and preventable deaths and injuries in a job that has some inherent risks.

To be most successful at this while still providing the service that is expected requires a comprehensive approach to firefighter safety. Protecting firefighters does not guarantee that they will not suffer from a preventable event. To provide the best possible protection requires firefighters' commitment, great training, and the best equipment available.

Taking Risks

As a rule, firefighters are generally considered risk takers. I don't think any fire chief would like to hire meek or passive firefighters. It is this characteristic that allows fire departments to provide services that benefit the community. Even with this natural tendency to take risks, I don't believe for a second that any firefighters would do anything to intentionally harm themselves. If they do harm themselves, they either are not as competent as they should be because they weren't trained adequately, they got complacent, or they thought that nothing bad could happen to them. There is one more factor that occasionally comes into play, and that is blind luck. Firefighters know that sometimes they are lucky to not get hurt. Conversely, there are times when some things go as well as possible and bad things still happen.

For an organization to protect firefighters, its personnel must take ownership of the issue and do what they can to promote their best self-interests. By this, I mean they need to do the things that allow them to be physically and mentally prepared to do the job. Firefighters have to accept the personal responsibility to be in the proper physical condition to do the job. Although departments can offer opportunities by having fitness rooms, they should also encourage better diets and require routine physical examinations. The individuals have the duty to stay in shape or get in shape and stay there. They need to realize that by being in good physical condition they can do the job better and reduce their risk of injury. They also can withstand injuries better and recover faster if they are unfortunate enough to get injured.

Training Commitment

Firefighters also have a responsibility in other areas that affect firefighter well-being. For example, they need to commit to training. Although training improves service, it also gives firefighters more tools to make better decisions and perform tasks at a more proficient level.

Training is the key to protecting firefighters. Properly trained firefighters will make good decisions and have great techniques. Unfortunately for the majority of firefighters, there is not enough opportunity to gain experience to be as competent as possible. To compensate, organizations need to invest more in preparing their personnel. This involves a comprehensive approach that includes the basics learned in recruit school all the way to incident command. It also involves constantly studying the profession to learn from previous errors and learning new developments that affect operations.

Firefighters often get bored and don't want to commit the necessary time and energy to repeat a skill often enough to establish and maintain the highest possible level of competence and skill. Another possibility is that they are getting busier all the time and may not have the time to do what is necessary. But, like many skills, failure to master the skill and maintain that mastery could lead to problems on the fireground. Although everyone can perform the basics, there may be cases where that is not good enough. Firefighters need to be true masters of their skills. The only way to do this is to repeat training and refresh frequently. Perhaps organizations should realistically assess how often each of t

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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Changes in Footwear Technology Drive New Boot Designs

By Alan M. Petrillo

The athletic industry and military services have influenced the design of structural firefighting boots, with boot manufacturers drawing heavily from both industries to make boots that fit better, are more comfortable for long periods of use, yet still protect the firefighter from heat and other hazards.

Athletic Designs

Haley Fudge, Lion's director of marketing, says that athletics influenced the Lock-Fit Ankle Support system in the company's Marshall pull-on leather structural firefighting boots and its Commander leather zip-lace boots. "Our boot manufacturer, STC Footwear, Montreal, Canada, cut its teeth on ice hockey skate technology," Fudge says. "They know how important the padding and the fit around the ankle and heel can be. Our Lock-Fit system comes from that hockey technology."

Teresa Lawson, product manager for gloves and boots at Honeywell First Responder Products, says the athletic industry impacted changes made in its PRO series leather pull-on and lace-up boots and Ranger series rubber pull-on boots. "Firefighters want immediate comfort as soon as they put their feet in their boots," Lawson says, "but they also want light weight and durability." She says Honeywell has drawn from athletics elements to make a sleeker, performance-driven boot that's engineered for comfort, safety, and control.

Budd Lake (NJ) Fire Department firefighters mop up at a structure fire
Budd Lake (NJ) Fire Department firefighters mop up at a structure fire
while wearing Fire-Dex FDXL-100 red leather structural firefighting
boots. (Photo courtesy of Fire-Dex.)

Mark Mordecai, director of business development for Globe Manufacturing Co., says Globe first entered the firefighting boot business seven years ago with an effort to make boots more flexible, fit better, and still give the firefighter a stable and solid platform from which to work. He says Globe took elements from athletic footwear and incorporated them into structural firefighting boots "that are much more cushioned and contoured, so they were very much like wearing a pair of athletic shoes."

Globe's latest structural firefighting boot is the Supralite 14-inch pull-on, Mordecai says, that incorporates a Heelport internal fit system to hold the heel securely so it won't slip while still cushioning the ankle and an individually molded heel counter for each boot size. The boots also have a composite shank that's lighter than steel, don't transmit heat or cold and spring back to shape better, as well as have composite puncture protection that's more flexible than steel and a composite safety toe cap.

Mordecai notes that the stitched welt construction that is a hallmark of military boots is stiff by design and flat. "We wanted a construction that moved like feet move where a foot can flex 50 degrees," he says. "If the boot doesn't flex, it will make the heel lift and not fit well."

Lion's Lock-Fit Ankle Support system in its Marshall pull-on leather structural firefighting boots
The design of Lion's Lock-Fit Ankle
Support system in its Marshall pull-on
leather structural firefighting boots was
influenced by athletics, specifically ice
hockey skate technology. (Photo courtesy
of Lion.)

Rob Mills, president of Black Diamond Boots, says that today's structural firefighters, like const

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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Letters to the Editor


The September 2013 issue had an interesting story about compressed air foam systems (CAFS), "CAFS Units Find Homes on a Variety of Apparatus," by Alan Petrillo. It talks about all the advantages of having a CAFS. Some points I agree with and some I don't. The problem is there are many disadvantages that pose many safety issues. I find the fact that none were mentioned disturbing.

First, let me make clear that these are strictly my opinions and not the opinions of the fire department for which I work.

The story stated that a CAFS handline is lighter to carry and less stressful on the firefighter. This is true. The problem is that the handline kinks extremely easily-so easily that it is problematic. Every turn or door jamb in a house will kink that handline. The weight of the nozzle alone will kink the line if it's not held straight. Sure, straight water will kink but not like a CAFS line.

The article also stated that the cooling effect is better. I disagree with this statement. The only thing that cools is water. The only thing that removes Btus is water. CAFS does a great job of smothering, but it does not have the cooling capabilities of water. If the fire goes out, that's great. But if it's still 1,500 degrees, we still have problems. How long are firefighters going to last attacking a basement fire with CAFS only? The fire will go out, but there won't be much cooling.

When we first bought our CAFS engines (three of them), it was preached to us that "CAFS works great in conjunction with timely ventilation." This is great if you're going to ventilate. Many departments can't because of staffing constraints. Water works great too with timely ventilation.

Another problem with CAFS is the foam itself. You spray compressed air foam all over a room, and now it's everywhere-on your gloves, on your facemask, and all over the floor. So, now it's on your mask, and you can't see anything. You wipe your mask with your glove, and now it's worse. You decide to get out of the structure and you slip and fall because the foam is all over.

Then there is the training aspect of CAFS. It is a different way of pumping. I won't get into the details, but if you have questionable driver/operators-and let's face it, we all do-this is a somewhat complicated system to learn.

The price of CAFS can be $30,000 or more per vehicle. This is a huge cost increase over non-CAFS pumpers. I think there is a place for CAFS at car fires, wildland fires, dumpster fires, and areas with a limited water supply. It's also good for protecting exposures

It's important for departments that are contemplating CAFS to know both the advantages and disadvantages.

Rob Walsh
Orland (IL) Fire Protection District

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