When it comes to high-performance brush trucks, Skeeter Brush Trucks seems to have come a long way since it was created eight years ago. Skeeter is part of the Siddons Martin Emergency Group, Wildland Division. Siddons Martin is the largest Pierce dealership in the southwest. It bought out a company called Emergency Equipment repair that was building small brush trucks at the time, according to Bill Davidson, vice president of sales and design for Skeeter.
Designed with a collaboration of firefighters and engineers, these rugged National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliant trucks are built to stand the toughest tests and be easy to maintain. “Our trucks are designed with the collaboration of wildland firefighters and engineers,” Davidson says. “Our solution is a true custom wildland apparatus manufactured to National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) standards. We put emphasis on protecting the chassis and body through reinforcements and armor to take the personnel and equipment to the fire and fight offensively while minimizing staffing.”
Each body is designed for strength, durability, and flexibility—engineered for 20 years of extreme wildland service. The bodies are TIG welded aluminum substructure (five-inch or eight-inch structural C-channel main frames with three-inch I-beam cross-members on 12-inch centers). The bodies are then aluminum skinned and spring mounted to the chassis frame. “Each body is NFPA flex tested with the customer while flowing water to all discharges to demonstrate and guarantee the customer has purchased one of the highest quality bodies in the industry,” Davidson says.
“All of our trucks are designed from the tires up with a great deal of engineering going into them,” Davidson says. “Some of our employees have a great deal of off-road racing experience so this helps us a great deal.”
The new design concept, called the FIREWALKER, came about two years ago. “Some of our customers who had 6 × 6 vehicles wanted us to build on a bigger chassis to hold a bigger tank and pump, but they didn’t need or want a Ford 650 or 750 chassis,” Davidson says. “We felt this would fill a niche market.” The company decided on a Ford F-550; with this chassis, it gutted the whole undercarriage and added high-performance suspensions. It also added a second axle to cover the extra weight. Also kept were the factory specs for caster and camber. “The vehicle operates great off road and on the highway,” Davidson says.
The 6 × 6 FIREWALKER is a 2017 Ford F550 Platinum Edition Rescue-Side, engineered from the ground up for extreme off-road service. A second rear axle and Skeeter All-Terrain Package deliver a wildland unit capable of hauling more water and equipment on a smaller chassis.
The 6 × 6 FIREWALKER increases body options, offering numerous custom body compartments to the sides and rear as well as increasing water tank size to 600 gallons. The bodies are built using high-strength, lightweight aluminum so customers don’t sacrifice water and equipment for body weight. The 138-inch body is beefed up with six-inch mainframes and a multipoint, spring-mounted system, engineered for severe duty wildland firefighting.
The custom front bumpers are built of aluminum (or steel) and formed to accommodate more than two dozen options. Constructed for wildland interface firefighting, the bumpers are manufactured for strength to protect the cab, engine, and steering assembly when working in extreme off-road conditions.
“Ford wanted us to build a concept truck quick that could be displayed last year at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) International,” Davidson says. “Instead of a concept truck, our engineers built a production model. The truck was on display at FDIC, and we received a great deal of feedback from wildland people as well as firefighters. We could educate them on all our vehicles as well as the FIREWALKER. Most wanted a Type-3 vehicle but more maneuverable and smaller.”
“Based on feedback, we might make some modifications to the body, adding more compartment space, more in-cab storage for emergency medical services operations,” Davidson says. “We can put a compressed air foam system and Class B foam on it as well. We could also design an aircraft rescue and firefighting fast attack unit as well. Also, any manufacturer’s pump can be put on it. It is equipped with bumper monitors and front sweep nozzles.”
The FIREWALKER was designed to have a 20-year frontline and 10-year reserve capability.
This small company has evolved from building small brush trucks and by listening to fire service feedback has grown immensely in the past three years, not only in sales but in engineering design.
Skeeter Brush Trucks’ proactive thinking has proven that being small doesn’t have to be a burden when you have a great idea for products for the fire service.