In the past several years, containing costs has become a primary concern for most fire departments. But sometimes the best way to save money isn’t always obvious.
Recently, when the Deer Park Fire Department (DPFD), located on Long Island, N.Y., evaluated its upcoming apparatus needs, it identified several vehicles that were coming up on 20 years of frontline service, the point at which the DPFD usually replaces them. Replacing these vehicles would represent a significant cost outlay for the department.
The solution required some creative thinking. “We looked at several options for replacing apparatus,” says DPFD Chief Richard Incandela. “The one idea that would save us a great deal of money was to replace a 10-year-old rescue pumper that was used a lot and was beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. If we sold it early, we could still get some good money for it and apply that to a replacement vehicle. One of our 20-year-old engines was still in good shape, so we could hold onto it a little longer.”
Put simply: They judged the apparatus in terms of their condition, rather than years of service, and they based their purchasing decision on what would be best for the firefighters and the citizens. “We finally decided that this was the way to go, and we received a great trade-in value for this vehicle,” Incandela says—which, in turn, greatly reduced what the department had to spend to purchase the new unit.
The DPFD’s older rescue pumper was a larger unit, but for this new apparatus, the department continued a trend of downsizing from 10-person cabs. “The last two engines we purchased were smaller Pierce Dash six-person cabs and they were working out well for us,” Incandela says. “It was only natural for us to go this way with this rescue engine.”
Selecting Pierce as the manufacturer was also natural. The DPFD has been a Pierce customer since the late 1970s, purchasing two mini-pumpers, several Lance pumpers and a Lance heavy-rescue, in addition to the engines. Following a competitive bidding process, Pierce won the bid for the DPFD’s new Impel rescue pumper. As with previous purchases, the department worked with Firematic, the local Pierce dealer on Long Island.
“Working with Firematic, our fire district commissioners have always been proactive in getting the most for their money and saving taxpayer dollars,” Incandela says. “This purchase was no different. Designing this new pumper was done by planning out compartment space to fit the amount of equipment we needed to carry. We didn’t go with all the bells and whistles, such as a generator, added electrical reels or built-in hydraulic lines. We kept it pretty simple.”
Squad Six is designed to be a first-out attack unit, but it can also respond as a rescue pumper or rapid intervention unit, especially during daytime response when staffing is reduced. “The Impel gave us a short wheelbase, a top-mount pumper configuration with a spacious cab and extra-large compartments to carry extrication tools, truck company tools and the normal engine company complement,” Incandela says. “It was also designed with a low hosebed to make it more ergonomic for our firefighters when stretching and loading hose during an alarm.”
Simplicity is key throughout the design of the vehicle. “We tried roll-up doors with our last purchase and didn’t like them,” Incandela says. “We feel we can get more space in the compartments with traditional doors.” The rig also features manual gate valves, a hand-operated deluge gun and hard wiring. “We stayed away from any computer-operated equipment for ease of operation and maintenance,” Incandela says. “This has always worked well for us.”
Other features: a brow light, rear lighting and side lighting. “We went with the Whelen Pioneer line of products, half-spot, half-flood, LED lights, which really worked out well,” Incandela says. Also included was a 9,000-lb. Warn portable winch with receiver points at the front, rear and sides of the vehicle.
“As in the past, we visited the factory during the build process and liked what we saw,” Incandela says. “We are always in awe when we visit the Pierce factory; the quality is evident, and if any modifications need to be made or anything needs to be fixed, our local dealer is always ready to help.”
Make Every Dollar Count
The DPFD has a history of being proactive in its apparatus needs and design. With its latest apparatus purchase, it joins a growing list of departments around the country looking at creative ways to save taxpayer dollars. The fire district and chiefs took a simple pumper design and outfitted it so it serves as a highly functional, multi-purpose squad pumper that can respond in different modes in the department’s response district, as well as to neighboring communities during mutual aid.
In the present climate of trying to keep taxes down and budgets intact, thinking outside the box is a great attribute. Building simple, cost-effective vehicles—leaving off a lot of fancy options—is another cost-conscious approach to apparatus speccing that is seeing a comeback. Let’s be realistic: If it gets the job done without an added $50,000 or $100,000 in items you probably didn’t need in the first place, you’ll look a lot wiser to your taxpayers.
Deer Park (N.Y.) Fire Department
The Deer Park Fire Department is a combination department with a paid EMS force. The department responds to more than 3,000 alarms per year, protecting 4.5 square miles of property with a population of 35,000.
The district is split, comprising 10,000 single-family dwellings, several senior-citizen complexes, apartment complexes and a large light-manufacturing and warehousing area. Numerous restaurants, strip shopping centers, seven schools and a large factory outlet complex are also located in the area.
The DPFD’s current apparatus fleet consists of four engines (one of which is a squad), a 75′ ladder tower, a heavy-rescue, two brush trucks, a fire police vehicle and three ALS/BLS ambulances.
Squad Six Specs
- 2011 Pierce custom pumper
- 70″ Impel cab with 10″ raised roof
- 450-hp Cummins engine
- Allison 3000 transmission
- Pierce TAK-4 independent suspension
- 1,500-gpm Waterous single-stage pump
- 750-gallon poly tank
- Hose lays: 1,150 feet of 4″ large diameter hose; 550 feet of 2½” hose; 400 feet of 2½” and 200 feet of 1¾” connected in two beds; 100 feet of 1¾” hose connected to the front bumper.