At its sprawling plant in Stratford, Connecticut, Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky Aircraft builds helicopters for all four branches of the military and the United States Coast Guard. It is currently under contract to build two Fire Hawk Helicopters for the Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department, which also owns three previous models.
Because of the newly designed CH53K heavy-lift helicopter that will be built at the factory for the United States Marine Corp, United States Defense Military regulations required the on-site fire department to upgrade its aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) capabilities because of the added fuel load the new helicopters will carry.
To give you some background, the Sikorsky Fire Department is comprised of 27 career firefighters operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. All firefighters are certified at the EMT-B and hazmat tech level. Firefighters perform interior structural firefighting as well as stand by for aircraft ground, flight, and fuel operations. The department is responsible for ensuring compliance of life safety codes and standards and implementing industrial loss control principles by conducting fire prevention inspections. It provides fire suppression protection, inspection, hazmat response, and EMS in the 2.8-million-square-foot facility in Stratford, Connecticut, as well as five off-site facilities. These facilities are in Bridgeport, Shelton, and Trumbull, Connecticut and at Dutchess County Airport in New York. Personnel also respond in a mutual-aid agreement with the local county and surrounding communities. Other vehicles on hand are a spare P-19 ARFF vehicle, a structural pumper, a heavy rescue, a hazmat decon trailer, two boats, a chief’s vehicle, and a 4 × 4 all-terrain vehicle.
According to Lieutenant Pat McCarty, one of the principals who was involved in designing the vehicle and writing the specs, “Vehicle replacement at our department is based primarily on funds. What this means is that capital money needs to be available for us to purchase a vehicle. In this case, the need was for additional foam and water capability to be available for the new CH53K helicopter that is being built at the Stratford facility,” McCarty continues.
“As with all our purchases with the company, we had to go out to bid,” McCarty says. “We also did a cost comparison analysis between the different manufacturers before we chose E-ONE. The cost of the vehicle was 100 percent funded by Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky.”
One of the main reasons for buying E-ONE was that the department was also familiar with E-ONE’s operations, since it had purchased an E-ONE Titan 4 x 4 in 2015. Commonality with training, parts, and maintenance was also considered.
“When we designed the vehicle, we tried to keep the operation between the vehicles the same,” McCarty says. “A newer version of the Akron Turrets and controls are the same on both vehicles and in the same locations.”
Another big reason the department chose E-ONE is its ECO Foam Test System. “As far as we know, it is the only company that has this,” McCarty says. “This is a more economically friendly system. It’s a system integrated with the ARFF vehicle that allows testing of the foam system without having to discharge any foam. We can turn the foam system off, then run water and a dye through the system to simulate flowing foam and determine how it performs. It gives us the ability to test the foam system more than only once a year and saves the cost of discharging foam during a test. The cost of the system is about the same as one load of foam,” McCarty adds. “The ECO system removes one load of foam and adds the same as the cost of one day of foam testing to meet our ESH Department requirements so as not to cause ground water contamination.”
E-ONE also has a cart-based Eco-Logic Foam system that operates the same as the integrated system where departments can have one cart per location so every ARFF vehicle wouldn’t have to be modified for testing. “We try not to put any foam on the ground if necessary and switched from C8 to C6 foam,” McCarty says. E-ONE also has an onboard system.
The committee traveled down to the factory in Ocala, Florida, several times during the build. Some modifications were also made during that time. The engineers at E-ONE went above and beyond to help solve any problems or concerns. “In general, dealing with E-ONE was great from design, delivery, and after delivery service,” McCarty says.
The Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky Fire Department was proactive in planning for this new vehicle. It took into consideration commonality with parts, training, and operation before awarding a bid to E-ONE. While some of you might not be able to accomplish this, it still should be in your mindset when planning and designing a new vehicle.
If you can afford it, visiting the factory several times will also greatly enhance the build. It is at these inspection times you may make changes and modifications if needed and see if there are any problems that need to be corrected and resolved. As I have mentioned in the past, proper planning in advance will help you get a better product in the end.
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.