I mostly cover municipal fire departments in this column, but I occasionally seek out a different kind of apparatus user. There are many fire training academies that aren’t run by fire departments. Some are run by counties, or in the case of this month’s column, state universities.
The Louisiana State University (LSU) Fire and Emergency Training Institute (originally the LSU Firemen Training Program) was created in 1963 by Louisiana Legislative Act 84 to equip, operate and maintain an in-service firefighter training program. Act 32, passed in 1970, gave the training program one-fourth of 1% of all fire insurance monies paid in the state to be used for training and facilities. In 1979, Act 528 stated that LSU was officially designated as the state agency to conduct training on a statewide basis.
A Long-Term Partnership
In 1972, the training institute moved to its own facility 6 miles south of the main university campus in Baton Rouge. It operates on 80 acres of land at this location, as well as at a second campus opened in 2007 in Minden, La.
Those locations have been a strong factor in apparatus purchasing decisions. “We’ve been with Ferrara for a number of years, even before they opened their large factory in Holden, La.,” says Christopher Browning, assistant director of the institute. “Purchasing from Ferrara is really convenient for us. Their factory is just 40 miles away, which enables us to visit and see our vehicles being constructed. It also makes maintenance easy.”
The institute doesn’t have to go out for competitive bidding for any of its vehicles. “Ferrara is listed on a State Manufactured Product list, so we can purchase that way, as well as pick certain options that are listed,” Browning says. “For our Ferrara purchases, we deal directly with the factory. They have been receptive to our designs and are customer-oriented; they work with you. We have not had any major issues with any of the four Ferrara vehicles we own, and that’s another major reason for our repeat purchases.”
All of the institute’s vehicles are required to be available for and respond to any major disaster throughout Louisiana. “We were the first outside agency to respond into New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and operated for 3 days in the city,” Browning says.
In addition, the institute needs apparatus to operate at various on-site training scenarios. “Our budget enables us to have an apparatus replacement program,” Browning says. “We try to keep our pumpers 5 years and ladder trucks 10 years. But the recent economic situation will require us to keep the apparatus for a longer period.”
For its latest purchase, a rescue pumper, the institute came up with the idea of painting the vehicle in the LSU Tiger football team colors and stripes, as a marketing tool for the university. “The apparatus is used in funerals and various parades around the state,” Browning says. “The rigs get a great reception from the local community, students and other people all over the state. We even have an external CD audio system with outdoor speakers that play the LSU Tiger fight song.”
But the improvements go deeper than the surface. “Since our last Ferrara purchase in 2004, we made some changes to the pumper specs,” Browning says. “The newer engine is used for our rookie academy at the institute, so we wanted it to have all of the new technology available, and carry more equipment. On this vehicle we have larger compartments, 12-V brow lights instead of a light tower—even though it has a generator on it—and a GiMax 1.7 foam system. The interior has a sprayed-on liner for better durability.”
During the latest build, members of the institute visited the factory several times. “We made some changes during construction so the engine would be more productive for us,” Browning says. “Ferrara was receptive to all of the changes we made and has helped us along the way to make sure that we were satisfied after we took delivery of the unit.”
Points to Note
Not every fire department has the luxury of having a fire apparatus manufacturer nearby. If you don’t, make sure there’s a local dealer with a shop for in-warranty repairs. If you’re satisfied with their apparatus, standardizing with one manufacturer can save money and time on training, parts and familiarity.
Also, look into whether your state has a direct purchasing program. You can save time by purchasing direct if the manufacturer is already on the state list. The LSU Fire and Emergency Training Institute benefited by this means of purchasing.
Finally, do your homework before you spec out a vehicle. Check out all of the manufacturers and what they have to offer, and check out some of the factories if time and budget permit. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run.
Even though the institute’s vehicles don’t respond on a daily basis to emergencies, they have the potential for being used at major disasters around Louisiana. This dual purpose means the state and the institute are getting the most out of their vehicles.
- Chassis: Ferrara Igniter custom fire chassis, Extreme Duty 3/8" steel bumper, Cummins ISL-425 engine, Allison 3000 EVS transmission, Igniter long cab with raised roof and seating for six.
- Body: Heavy-duty extruded aluminum fire body, left- and right-side full-height rescue compartments, Robinson roll-up doors, rooftop storage compartments, ladders/pike poles stored between tank and right high side, Stokes storage, eight spare SCBA over rear wheels.
- Pump: 1,500-gpm Hale QMAX pump; left- and right-side hinged pump panels, enclosed pump panels, Hale MIV in left-side steamer; Class 1 TPG+ pressure governor, double speedlays with reload trays, right-side LDH discharge, deck gun plumbing, FoamPro 2002 compressed air foam system.
- Tank: 750-gallon poly water tank with 20-gallon integral foam cell.
- Special Features: On Scene Solutions LED pump panel and compartment lights; Whelen M Series LED warning lights, 12-V Whelen Pioneer LED brow and recessed lights, 10-kW Harrison hydraulic generator, Hannay electric rewind cord reel.
LSU Ferrara Fleet
- Tiger 1: 2004 Ferrara Igniter pumper with a 1,500-gpm pump and a 750-gallon water tank
- Platform: 2004 105' Ferrara Igniter
- Commercial: 2005 GMC with a 1,250-gpm pump and a 1,000-gallon tank