When the Montgomery County (Md.) Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) started planning for a large purchase of new pumpers, little did they know that it would be a very long process.
Back in 2004, the MCFRS began the process by writing specs for the purchase of 37 new pumpers. “Our apparatus committee is quite large compared with other departments,” says Operations Division Chief Steve Lohr. “The committee consists of me, battalion chiefs, mechanics, volunteer firefighter reps, career firefighter reps, union reps and firefighters from truck companies, engine companies and EMS units. We want to give everyone the opportunity to be involved in the design of our vehicles.”
It took about 6 to 8 months for the committee to write and review the specs for the vehicles, which reflected the varied response area that MCFRS covers. “Since we operate in urban, suburban and rural areas, as well as operating in D.C. and Fairfax County, we needed vehicles that could operate and carry equipment for operations in all these response districts,” Lohr says.
After the specs were written, the MCFRS sent out a request for proposals (RFP) with competitive bidding involved, and the contract was given to Elite Fire Apparatus of Tilleda, Wis. Elite manufactured a prototype vehicle within 6 months; after approval, it was to produce six units every 4 months, so that in 24 months all first-line engine companies would be operating with a new piece of equipment.
A Turn in the Road
Unfortunately, financial problems overtook Elite, forcing the MCFRS to cancel the contract.
“Since we still needed the pumpers, we purchased the chassis from Spartan,” Lohr says. “We basically had a 1-year delay, because now we had to send out another RFP and rebid the bodies for the 37 pumpers. However, since we were building two additional fire stations, we decided to add two more to the mix, for a total of 39 pumpers.” In addition, two volunteer companies in the area added on to the order with their own funds, for a total of 41 units.
In July 2008, after another competitive bidding process, the new contract was awarded to Crimson Fire Apparatus; it included a prototype within 90 days of the contract being awarded. The prototype would be used for hands-on CAFS training for the entire MCFRS career and volunteer force.
“Thankfully, all of the manufacturers involved worked with us and stayed with us through the whole process,” Lohr says, “including Hale, Spartan and Crimson.” Because of the excellent cooperation, the first pumper was delivered 13 months ahead of Crimson’s expected date. At publication, 21 of the 39 units ordered are in service.
Designed for Safety & Convenience
MCFRS’ pumper design focuses not only on firefighter safety, but on ease of maintenance for the department’s mechanics.
“We have hinged access panels for access to our pump house, and additional rear access for the generator and gas tank,” Lohr says. “In addition, these pumpers have lowprofile L-shaped tanks with rear suction that maximizes hose capacity and accessibility all around the rigs. We also have multiple attack lines, dual 4" LDH beds for supply lines, a deck gun and a pre-connect blitz line portable master stream.”
Two quick-throw ground ladders and two hard sleeves of suction hose are accessible without having to climb on the vehicle. Attack lines are color-coded by hose diameter. Therigs also feature 7.5-kW diesel generators and 3,000-watt front, rear and side scene lighting.
Safety is also reflected in the vehicles’ interior. All portable equipment in the cab area is secured, such as turnout gear and quick-access EMS equipment, and there are climate-controlled compartments for drugs and narcotics. “We also had rollover protection installed, increased our cab space from our older rigs and
designed all storage compartments to be able to lock,” Lohr says. “All of our firefighters have three-point seatbelt harnesses, forward-facing seats and head sets for communications.”
Have a Plan B
Despite their initial difficulties with this apparatus purchase, the MCFRS took several steps that helped them mitigate the challenges in the end. They had prototype vehicles built so they could make adjustments for the future deliveries as needed, and they used the prototype to train their crews on CAFS so they could hit the ground running when the new vehicles were delivered.
Hopefully you won’t have to face rebidding a large order of apparatus like MCFRS did, but in this economy, and with some apparatus manufacturers currently operating on the edge, you must be prepared. Look into the financial conditions of any manufacturer you’re considering, and make sure they can handle your order, big or small. Request a performance bond to protect yourself and your fire department or district.
The economy is showing signs of recovery, but we’re not out of the woods. Have a back-up plan in place in case you face a situation where your manufacturer can’t deliver as planned.