I’ve always been a fire apparatus buff. In particular, I’ve searched out unique apparatus designed and built to pack a big punch for rural fire departments. While attending the third annual Southwest Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) Symposium, I had the opportunity to examine the “Minuteman,” a combination first response apparatus made by Blanchat Manufacturing of Harper, Kan.
Built on a Ford F-550 chassis, the most impressive thing about this truck is the scope of its capabilities and the impressive amount of equipment it carries (see Figure 1).
The Minuteman has been delivered to many departments so far, reflecting its broad application. Blanchat designed the unit to be a multipurpose initial response vehicle that would meet the needs of rural firefighters in Kansas and surrounding areas. Features include:
- The ability to fight running wildland fires;
- A limited capability to perform initial attack on structure fires;
- Equipment needed to perform auto extrication, farm rescue and confined space rescue operations; and
- Equipment for basic EMS operations.
Figure 2 is from Chief Rocky Rexrode of the Sunray (Texas) Volunteer Fire Department. His department decided to kick their unit up a notch from what I saw at the convention, a model Blanchat calls the Patriot. This unit includes a larger, 4-x-4 chassis and an International diesel engine. So far, Chief Rexrode has been very pleased with the unit’s performance.
The Minuteman’s firefighting equipment consists of a 400-gallon polypropylene tank, a Rowe/Hale 23-hp pump that can deliver 120 gpm at 120 psi and a 70-cfm/150-psi air compressor mounted under the hood and driven by the engine.
Attack hoselines consist of:
- 10 feet of 1″ “whip line”—the term Blanchat uses for the line used by a firefighter riding in the walkway and capable of flowing 12–65 gpm for wildland fires;
- 150 feet of 1″ booster hose on a reel at the rear;
- 150 feet of 1 3/4″ preconnected CAFS line (blue) equipped with a 1 1/8″ tip and capable of flowing 120 gpm and 70 cfm of compressed air foam for structural fire attack; and
- 150 feet of 1 3/4″ preconnected line (orange) equipped with a combination fog nozzle capable of flowing 120 gpm of water at 120 psi.
Furthermore, the Minuteman is very well organized and uses storage space ingeniously to conveniently accommodate the large array of equipment it carries, which includes a generator, traffic cones, spare SCBA bottles, hydraulic rescue tools, medical supplies, an extension ladder and much more.
To help provide a stabilizing and lifting force, Blanchat designed and built a special front bumper for the Minuteman and equipped it with an 8,000-lb. winch. They call this system the Blanchat Lift Emergency Stabilization System (BLESS). Figures 8–10 show the BLESS in operation.
Although the Blanchat Minuteman may not be what your department needs, it’s equipped to handle 95 percent of the incidents to which rural firefighters respond, and it serves as a quick-out vehicle that allows a two-person team to arrive on scene, perform size up, take some initial actions and advise incoming personnel as to what must be done.
For more information and video demonstrations on this Blanchat apparatus, visit the company Web site at www.blanchatmfg.com.
’Til next time, stay safe.