Downtown Devils: Vehicle Operation And Apparatus

Downtown Devils

If you are interested in learning about fire department and fire apparatus history, research just about any fire company in Pennsylvania and you will gain a great insight into America’s past.

The Good Intent Fire Company, part of the Pottsville Fire Department in Schuylkill County (PA), is no exception. The Downtown Devils, as they are affectionately called, have a past that goes back to 1846 when the company was first created.

Apparatus History

Its apparatus history reads like the who’s who of old time apparatus manufacturers. In these years it had apparatus including the following:

  • 1866- Steamer 199 Amoskeag Manufacturing pumper.
  • 1910-Robinson 700-gpm triple combination pumper.
  • 1929-Ahrens Fox 1,000-gpm piston pumper.
  • 1937 Ahrens Fox 500-gpm triple combination pumper.
  • 1958-Oren 750-gpm triple combination pumper.
  • 1975-Hahn 1,000-gpm pumper.
  • 1988-Hahn 1,000-gpm pumper.
  • 1998-E-ONE 1,500-gpm pumper.
  • 2004-KME 1,500-gpm pumper.
  • 2015-KME 1,500-gpm pumper.

According to Assistant Chief Jason Witmier, the past several years the company was able to replace its apparatus on a 10-year basis. “The ten-year mark allows us to receive a greater resell value for our older vehicle, which saves us money in the long run,” Witmier says.

“Even though we are part of the Pottsville Fire Department, each company serves as its own entity. We do respond together and have common standard operating procedures (SOPs). However, when it comes to apparatus, we can design and purchase the vehicle of our choice,” Witmier says. “We are a single-engine house, so this is our only and primary piece of apparatus to respond with.”

The response area consists of a great deal of older dwellings and downtown apartments and retail establishments as well as the normal strip shopping centers and restaurants. “It probably took us about a year and a half for our committee to look at other apparatus deliveries and draw up the specs for the new engine. Even though we are not required to by law, we still go out for bid for all our apparatus purchases,” Witmier adds.

By doing this, the company gives all the manufacturers a chance to bid and gets the best value. “We looked at the three other bids we received besides KME. We previously had a 2004 KME engine and we had no problems with it, so we chose to go with KME again,” Witmier says. “KME was great to work with during the build, and they were close by, so visiting the factory during the build phase was a great plus for our committee.”

Vehicle Specs

The new vehicle, a KME Pro (pumper rescue optimized), was designed with the following missions: It needed to be a first-out attack engine and be able to perform a rapid intervention team (RIT) function, and it also had to have a 32-inch length restriction to be able to fit into a firehouse that was built in 1882. In addition, the vehicle needed a short wheelbase to be able to respond around Pottsville, which has a great deal of narrow streets. The older KME apparatus had a 191-inch wheelbase and the new one has a 189-inch wheelbase.

“We chose a 10-person cab because of the need to have the vehicle respond as a RIT unit. We could carry extra staff if needed,” Witmier says. “The vehicle at times could respond on mutual aid 30 miles outside of our normal response area.”

Extra compartmentation was also a needed component. With the narrow pump panel the vehicle was built with, personnel gained added compartment space. The pumper has 110 cubic feet of compartment space.

One of the other options the department had installed in the build was a 240-volt LED light tower. Personnel respond to a great deal of motor vehicle accidents and this lights up the scene. In addition, a 360-degree camera system was installed, allowing the driver and officer a great view of all four sides of the vehicle when responding.

“We had both Class A and B foam cells in our other pumper but chose only A because we didn’t use B most times. However, we can still use Class B with an outside foam eductor,” Witmier says.

The new KME Diagrammatic pump panel was a little strange for members at first but personnel were sold on it after using it a few times. “It is a dream to pump,” Witmier adds. The vehicle was also designed with all of the preconnects off the rear and at shoulder level for better ergonomics. There are also poly slide out trays for better deployment of the hoselines.

Another added feature for RIT is prepacked stokes baskets with RIT gear that are waist high for easy access. All ladders are also waist high for gaining access easily.

“While some fire departments have removed booster reels from the pumpers, we added a ¾-inch booster reel for the sole purpose of washing off tools at the scene and for small grass fires,” Witmier says. “Our SOPs prevent us from using it on a structural fire.”

Fit and Effectiveness

The Good Intent Fire Company spent a great deal of time designing the new engine. It had fire station size to consider as well as designing a short wheelbase chassis that would be able to fit down the narrow streets in the response district.

There have been many fire apparatus built with poor planning by other departments in the past, and many have had a fire truck delivered only to find it doesn’t fit in the firehouse. Don’t disregard this phase of apparatus spec writing-measure and remeasure.

The department also planned for mutual-aid response and the amount of added equipment for RIT response. Added compartment space, ergonomically designed hosebed and ladder racks, and a host of other options make this vehicle a great fit for this fire company. Members were truly proactive in the spec writing and the vehicle that was delivered by KME. According to Witmier, the vehicle has already responded to several fires and has worked out well.

Bob Vaccaro has more than 40 years of fire service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (NY) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol, and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. He is a life member of the IAFC.

Organization of the Pottsville Fire Department

  • The Pottsville Fire Department was organized in 1877 with the following five charter member companies:
    • Good Intent Fire Company No. 1.
    • Phoenix Fire Company No. 2 (formerly Schuylkill Hydraulians).
    • Humane Hose and Steam Fire Company (currently Humane Fire Company No. 1).
    • American Hose Company No. 2 (formerly Rough & Ready Fire Company).
    • Atkins Fire Company (later disbanded).
  • Located in the heart of the Anthracite Coal Region, the Pottsville Fire Department serves the 16,600 citizens of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The department covers an area of approximately 10 square miles and also provides mutual-aid support to many surrounding communities.
  • The department consists of seven independent volunteer companies, under the direction of one full-time paid chief. The chief is assisted by four part-time paid assistants. Each company is individually funded and operated by 100 percent volunteers.
  • As a whole, the department consists of seven engines, one 75-foot quint, one 110-foot tractor-drawn aerial, one heavy rescue, one QRS unit, four squad/utility vehicles, one brush truck, and three antique reserve pumpers.

Severe Service Engine Specs

  • KME Predator™ 100-inch XLFD chassis with 22-inch raised roof with seating for 10.
  • 20-inch front bumper extension with two storage wells.
  • Setcom Liberator wireless intercom system.
  • USSC Valor Seating with heat, LED, and charging ports.
  • Interior storage cabinets.
  • 500-hp Cummins ISX-12 engine with engine brake.
  • Allison 4000 EVS five-speed automatic transmission.
  • Continental tire pressure monitoring system.
  • 3⁄16-inch aluminum body construction.
  • Full height/full depth compartments both sides.
  • Body roof storage compartments.
  • KME Lock-n-Load™ treadplate hosebed cover.
  • Waist height ladder/stokes storage.
  • 446.4 cubic feet of storage capacity.
  • FireTech Brow Light.
  • Code 3 LED warning package.
  • FRC LED scene lighting.
  • Will-Burt LED light tower with six light heads.
  • Onan 15-kW generator.
  • 360-degree camera system.
  • Dual red/white Amdor Lumabar compartment lighting.
  • Waterous CXS 1,500-gpm pump with Advantus 6 foam system.
  • 500 gallons of water with 30 gallons of Class A foam.
  • Diagrammatic pump panel.
  • TFT remote control deck gun.
  • Four preconnected rear discharges and two under cab speedlays.
  • Overall height: 125 inches/10 feet, five inches.
  • Overall length: 387inches/32 feet, three inches.
  • Wheelbase: 189 inches.


Clarion UX