The Mighty Mini Pumper

KME delivers a mini pumper to the Eagle (PA) Fire Company

Back in the 1970s, known as the dark ages, when I first started in the fire service, the role of the mini pumper was starting to be introduced by some of the fire service manufacturers. The mini pumper was a small agile fire truck with a small 500- to 750-gpm pump and a limited amount, 250-300 gallons, of water onboard. It was a cheap was to get a first-out unit for car fires; dumpster fires; brush fires; and, in some cases, even a first-out attack unit for small structural fires. Even though I wouldn’t advocate it for that scenario, some departments on limited budgets saw a need for this.

Above: The Eagle Fire Company Attack 896 KME Ford F-550 1,250-gpm mini pumper. (Photos by KME.) Below: The rear of the unit with large roll-up compartment and hosebed.

Above: The Eagle Fire Company Attack 896 KME Ford F-550 1,250-gpm mini pumper. (Photos by KME.) Below: The rear of the unit with large roll-up compartment and hosebed.

Above: The Eagle Fire Company Attack 896 KME Ford F-550 1,250-gpm mini pumper. (Photos by KME.) Below: The rear of the unit with large roll-up compartment and hosebed.

The fad lasted a few years but faded away because of the small pumps and limited amount of water for use on the fireground, plus lighter chassis, smaller engines, and not being able to get a four-door crew cab.

Fast forward to the present time. Over the past five years, we have begun to see the mini pumper concept coming alive again. Once again budgets came into play, but this time in some cases you can outfit a mini with a 1,500-gpm pump, a more powerful diesel engine, and a four-door cab. This gives smaller departments with limited resources a viable option for firefighting.

Viable Options

This concept caught the eye of Chief Norm Claybaugh from the Eagle Fire Company in Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania. “We normally replace our vehicles every 15 to 17 years based on maintenance and needs,” Claybaugh says. “We had to replace our 4 × 4 international urban interface unit, which was causing us some maintenance issues. We were putting a great deal of money into this older unit.”

Eagle (PA) Fire Company KME mini pumper specs

• Ford F-550 4 × 4 four-door cab chassis. All aluminum body.

• 6.7-liter Ford Power Stroke diesel engine, automatic transmission.

• Hale single-stage 1,250-gpm pump.

• 300-gallon water tank, 10-gallon Class A foam tank.

• Front-mounted Warn winch.

• FRC MFA 200 foam system.

The department began looking into this vehicle about 11⁄2 years ago. Initially, personnel looked into specing a pumper/tanker, but that idea was cost prohibitive. “Looking at our response area, we decided to go with a smaller unit,” Claybaugh continues. “Our area is primarily rural, but we do have some industrial and commercial areas. East Manchester Township, which we also cover, has some farms, large housing developments, as well as some narrow alleyways.”

Vehicle Selection

A smaller mini pumper with a large pump, a four-door cab, a 4 × 4 chassis, a 300-gallon tank, and a 10-gallon Class A foam tank was the way to go for the fire company. “We went out to bid, and KME was the only manufacturer that would work with us to customize this vehicle,” Claybaugh says. “All the other manufacturers were only interested in building us a cookie cutter vehicle—something we vehemently opposed.”

The fire company also had a 2011 KME Class A pumper and was happy with the operation and service with that unit, so it was a no brainer to go with KME on this purchase. “They listened to all of our ideas,” Claybaugh says. “We started with a basic body design and then made some changes to suit our fire company. Our committee was comprised of 12 members. They each had a role. We did a great deal of research, visited other departments that took delivery of similar vehicles, and then wrote our own specs.”

The vehicle front with Warn winch.

The vehicle front with Warn winch.

The large four-door cab.

The large four-door cab.

“It was great dealing with KME and the local dealer,” Claybaugh continues. “We visited the factory three times during the build and made some minor changes along the way. We added some front lights and added grab handles—nothing major—and no changes were made once production started on the vehicle.”

Vehicle Specs

The committee was originally going to design the truck with a 500-gpm pump but decided on a Hale 1,250-gpm pump. The truck might have to go down some tight alleys and have a long stretch, so the extra gpm pump would come in handy. The truck is built on a four-door Ford F-550 chassis powered by a Ford Power Stroke diesel engine.

Eagle Fire Company

Eagle Fire Company #1 is in Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania, with 62 volunteers (18 active volunteer firefighters) and one station providing fire suppression, brush fire and tanker services, and EMS quick response. It serves the borough of Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania (population 1,800), and the eastern half of East Manchester Township, with a total population of approximately 5,000 people in 17 square miles.

The service area includes agricultural and suburban settings and light commercial and light industrial complexes, including one of the largest coal-fired power generating plants in the United States. Eagle Fire Company #1 also provides automatic mutual aid to surrounding fire companies covering a population of about 9,000.

Other apparatus: a 2002 International/Central States pumper, 1,000-gpm, which this mini pumper replaced; a Rosenbauer pumper, 500-gallon water tank, and 20-gallon Class A foam tank; a 2010 Freightliner tanker, 700-gpm pump, 2,000-gallon water tank, and 2,100-gallon portable water tank; a 2008 Ford F-350 Super Duty utility vehicle with Indian Forestry packs, SCBA packs, hand tools, and medical equipment; and a KME Predator rescue pumper.

The vehicle can carry a great deal of hose: four preconnects, one having 100 feet of 1½-inch hose, two having 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose, and one 150 feet of 2½-inch hose. Supply lines consist of 500 feet of five-inch and 600 feet of three-inch hose. Also carried are normal engine company fittings, brush tools, axes, halligans, a K-12 saw, a stokes basket, a basic complement of ropes, and cribbing.

“The basic idea was that it would take some of the burden off our bigger units,” Claybaugh says. “It responds to motor vehicle accidents, car fires, dumpster fires, and is a second-due piece for structural response.” Claybaugh adds, “The vehicle is working out well for us, and we are using the mini to our advantage.”

Who says you can’t go back to the future. An old idea with a modern approach is serving the Eagle Fire Company. The members didn’t want to take no for an answer when they turned down building just another cookie cutter truck. They worked together to design a vehicle that would work for their response area and take the burden off their larger pumpers. The result was a custom-designed mini pumper that not only saved their budget but provided them with a viable firefighting apparatus.

By Bob Vaccaro

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.

Clarion UX