In Sharonville, Ohio, Preparedness Includes a Dry Chem Unit

The Sharonville (Ohio) Fire Department’s new dry chem unit is built on a Ford F-550 chassis. Photo courtesy Summit Fire Apparatus

Designing a new piece of apparatus for your department starts with determining the manufacturer, the model and the features you need, right? Wrong. Planning for an apparatus actually starts long before that—it starts with understanding your response area’s target hazards and needs, and how you expect the new vehicle to meet them. Only then can you begin to design the actual vehicle.

This is exactly the approach that Chief Ralph Hammonds and the Sharonville (Ohio) Fire Department (SFD) took when they designed a new specialized vehicle for their department.

Recognizing the Need
“Approximately four years ago, we began planning for a dry chem unit,” Hammonds says. “Our response area encompasses a great deal of truck traffic since we are in the middle of Routes 75 and 275 just south of Cincinnati.” The community is also home to a Ford Motor Company transmission plant and sees a large amount of rail movement. These features bring a large amount of hazardous materials through the community—which in turn created the need for a dry chemical apparatus.

“We originally looked at a twin-agent type of unit that would dispense foam and dry chemical,” Hammonds says, “but because of having to stock a greater amount of foam, we decided against purchasing this type of vehicle. We also looked at skid-mounted units but concluded they wouldn’t meet our needs.”

After working on the specs, the proposal was sent out to competitive bidding; Summit Fire Apparatus was the successful bid winner. “We were happy about that because we’d purchased several pieces of apparatus from them in the past and were happy with their work and service,” Hammonds says.

Once the chassis was delivered to Summit, the vehicle was built in about seven months. “One of many reasons we were happy with Summit building the vehicle was that it was only 36 miles from our community,” Hammonds says. “We were probably at the factory at least several times month. This provided us with the ability to see the truck built from the ground up.”

The SFD’s proper planning paid off; they had few major changes to the vehicle during the build process. “The only real change was to downsize the front compartment, to make it a better fit for us,” Hammonds says.

Burner Fire Control of Lafayette, La., designed the dry chem portion of the vehicle. “What’s great about the operation of this vehicle is that you can use as much or as little of the dry chemical product as you need,” Hammonds says. “In some of the other units that we looked at, once you discharged at a fire, you have to dump the whole amount of dry chem and then refill. This type of operation can be costly to say the least.”

Following delivery, both Burner Fire Control and Summit provided training to department members on the operation of the new vehicle.

Sharing a Valuable Resource
The SFD recognizes the power of regional collaboration when it comes to apparatus purchases and response, and the concept played heavily in the purchase of this vehicle. “Our department put in for an Assistance to Firefighters [AFG] grant in 2010,” Hammonds says. “It took about a year after going through a local program, then the federal program. We were awarded a grant for the vehicle in 2011, which saved us a great deal of money than if we’d had to purchase the vehicle all on our own.”

Part of the conditions for the grant: making the unit available to the local USAR counties and states—which includes 19 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana—via mutual-aid agreements. “So far we haven’t had to use the vehicle on any fires, but have trained extensively with the unit not only with our own firefighters but neighboring departments as well,” Hammonds says. The vehicle responds with three firefighters and a lieutenant, as well as the duty chief.

The SFD is also part of the Northeast Fire Collaborative (NEFC), which combines the assets of five communities: Blue Ash, Loveland-Symmes, Sharonville, Sycamore and Mason. Within these communities, 11 fire stations support a comprehensive effort to enhance fire protection services.

According to a press release in 2009, when the NEFC was formed, through this agreement, “the departments join forces to provide safer fireground operations, smarter business operations and a sensible approach to meeting mandates, all while providing fiscal responsibility to their taxpayers.” Although each department maintains its autonomy, they agree through policies and standard operating guidelines (SOPs) to train firefighters together, respond to emergencies using the closest station to the emergency and share assets, including group purchasing and equipment standardization.

“The communities involved place a high priority on the safety service we provide to our residents,” the release continues. “Through these efforts we will bring to bear the full response capabilities of 11 fire stations and over 300 professionals on a daily basis. Our residents will experience an enhanced response to their calls for assistance all the while knowing their fire departments are spending their tax dollars wisely.”

Getting Progressive
It seems that the SFD has got it together in providing a better level of service to their community with shared equipment and costs with the foresight and proper preplanning needed to get the job done. It’s no wonder Sharonville’s nickname is the City of Progress.

Sidebar: The City of Progress
Known as the “City of Progress,” Sharonville was incorporated in 1962 and encompasses 11 square miles at a prime location between I-75, I-71 and I-275 in Greater Cincinnati, about 18 miles north of the Ohio River. The community includes a mix of 1,200 businesses, including hotels and restaurants, as well as recreational areas, a 52-unit retirement community and a redeveloped downtown and Depot Square. The residential population is approximately 14,000 and the working population is 37,000.
The Sharonville Fire Department maintains three stations that employ 75 firefighters, 36 of whom are career.

Sidebar: Dry Chem Unit Specs

  • Ford F-550 chassis
  • 6.7-L turbo diesel
  • 19,500-lb. gross vehicle weight
  • Whelen LED light package
  • 2,500 lbs. of Dry Powder and 150 lbs of Metal-X
  • TFT front-mounted turret with cab joystick control
  • TFT nozzle connected to 150 feet of handline in rear
  • Four SCBA