The budget pressures facing many communities in the last several years have thrown a new wrench in the apparatus management of some departments. When budget cuts result in reduced staffing, fire departments can be left with too many apparatus.
This was the situation faced by the North Hoosick (N.Y.) Fire Department (NHFD). “We had seven pieces of equipment on our roster,” says Chief Allan Bornt. “However, because of low manpower responding to alarms, we needed to reduce the amount of fire apparatus our department responds with.”
But the NHFD didn’t just sell an apparatus. Rather, it approached the situation creatively, and used the reduction to improve its fleet overall.
The NHFD’s response area is basically a bedroom community with a population of about 2,000 people. “We are mainly rural with no large industry, and some local stores and a restaurant,” Bornt says. “In addition, we do not have the luxury of having fire hydrants.”
In 2012, the department decided to upgrade and reduce its fleet at the same time. “One of our older trucks was 20 years old,” Bornt says. “We took great care of it and kept up with the maintenance. However, it was time to purchase a new vehicle.”
The plan: Purchase a new pumper to replace a 1987 4 x 4 supply vehicle, and also sell the department’s 1993 International Pumper to reduce the fleet. “The new pumper would be used as a tanker, pumper and attack truck, so it would be a multi-purpose vehicle for us,” Bornt says.
The department funded the purchase through a combination of fundraisers held over the past 14 years and through a loan. “Some of our vehicles we were able to purchase outright; for others, we took out loans,” Bornt says. “In this case, our board of directors went to the local bank for funding.”
The NHFD is a fire protection district, so it doesn’t have to go through a competitive bidding process. Instead, the department’s truck committee worked on some specs and then contacted several manufacturers for ideas. “After several discussions with the various manufacturers, we decided to go with Toyne,” Bornt says. “We were familiar with the local dealer, VRS Sales, and their salesman Dick Shakerley, because we had dealt with them on other apparatus purchases. The most recent was a 2005 GMC rescue.”
Bornt adds that the purchase went smoothly. “VRS and Toyne were great to deal with,” he says. “VRS Sales really took an active role in this purchase, and that made the process of the apparatus build something we looked forward to.”
One of the biggest upgrades the NHFD made with the new pumper: water delivery. The new vehicle features a 1,250-gpm pump and a 1,000-gallon tank; the old vehicle had a 1,000-gpm pump and a 500-gallon tank. The vehicle also carries two 500-gpm portable pumps. “We went for a front-mount pump, which makes it a lot easier for the pump operator to draft from a lake or pond,” Bornt says. “The compartment space on the new vehicle is comparable to the older truck. We just carry the basic nozzles and fittings for our operations. We also added a bench seat to hold extra manpower if we have it.”
Although most departments travel to the apparatus factory to see the actual build, the NHFD saved money by relying heavily on VRS sales and weekly photos from Toyne of the vehicle while it was being built. This “virtual” inspection worked well. “I can honestly say there were no major issues during the building of the truck, and delivery took place quicker than all of us originally planned,” Bornt says. “The engineers at Toyne, as well as the local dealer, listened to all of our ideas during the whole process and built us a truck that would meet our needs, not only now but way into the future.”
Since taking delivery, the NHFD has used the vehicle on a few fires and has been extensively drilling with it. “Everyone seems to agree that it was a great purchase,” Bornt says.
The NHFD made the most of a bad situation—reduced staffing—to spec a vehicle that will improve its response capability. And they made another smart decision: choosing to go with Toyne and a local dealer that they’re familiar with. A certain trust was built up even before the purchase, which is a good thing. This department was able to work with the manufacturer’s engineers and the dealer to make their purchase more cost-effective and, in the long run, get a piece of apparatus that not only is functional for their response area, but will serve them well into the future.
More fire departments around the country are going back to the basics as far as options are concerned, as well as looking to cut costs by choosing commercial chassis and smaller pumps. Others are purchasing apparatus as an add-on order to larger city orders to try to save money. These trends will continue. Although the economy is starting to show some small signs of recovery, we still have a long way to go.
Sidebar: North Hoosick Pumper Specs
- International 7400 4 x 4 chassis with Maxx Force 9 engine
- 1,250-gpm Hale front-mount pump
- 1,000-gallon UPF tank
- Hannay reel with a capacity for 2,500 feet of 5" LDH
- Code 3 lighting package
- Fire Research telescopic flood lights
- Aluminum body with roll-up compartment doors