By Chris Umscheid
SOLON— Next spring when the fire department pagers go off, Solon’s bravest will ride-out in a brand new fire engine. The $480,000 pumper is being built by Toyne, Inc. of Breda, and is expected to be delivered in late April or early May according to Solon firefighter Bob Siddell.
The pumper is what is known as a custom unit with a cab and chassis built by (appropriately enough) Spartan Chassis, Inc. of Charlotte, Mich. The cab and chassis, a Spartan “Metro Star” features a cab-over engine design with seating for six firefighters. Five seats will be equipped with Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), or air packs allowing the firefighters to be fully dressed in protective gear and ready to begin attacking a fire on arrival. Toyne, Inc. is building the fire engine body which features a 1,000 gallon water tank, 1,500 gallon-per-minute capacity pump and a top mount pump operator’s station which gives the operator a better view of the fire scene than more traditional side mount operator’s panels.
Drivers should have no trouble seeing or hearing the engine on its way to an emergency as it will have a full LED emergency light package and a classic “Roto-Ray” light array on the front. The “Roto-Ray” is a set of three lights on a rotating arm first introduced some 65 years ago and still popular among firefighters from a traditional and functional standpoint. The engine will also have a contemporary electronic siren as well as another time-honored, traditional piece of emergency equipment: a model “Q” mechanical siren. The “Q” was introduced by Federal Signal in the 1940s and soldiers on yet today. To some purists, “it’s not a fire engine if it doesn’t have a ‘Q’!” The distinctive sound has actually been trademarked by Federal Signal.
As has been department policy since the early 1980s, the engine will be painted in bright yellow with white trim. Siddell said the move away from red was due to concerns about making fire apparatus more visible, a discussion which started with a New York state optometrist in the 1970s. However, many departments went back to red in the 1990s. Siddell said there was a serious discussion within the department about painting the new rig red with white, but the yellow prevailed.
The new Engine 131 will replace the current Engine 132, a 1991 vintage pumper, which will be put up for sale by the department. A trade-in option is available to the department if a satisfactory asking price cannot be reached. But Siddell noted the department has already received some inquiries about the engine. The current Engine 131, a 2001 Spartan Metro Star, will be renumbered to 132 and become the second-out or reserve engine.
Siddell explained the department used to replace vehicles on about a ten-year cycle. However fire apparatus has become more expensive making it difficult to replace them with such frequency. The volunteers try to get 20 years out of a truck now. “We like to keep them running as long as we can,” he said. The department hopes to get 25-30 years out of the new engine. “Reliability is key,” Siddell said adding the new truck will be more efficient than its older stable mates. “It’s also a lot safer for the firefighters. Spartan introduced a new air bag-air curtain system, and we’re one of the first departments to get it.” The system, which Spartan calls its Advanced Protection System (APS) was designed specifically for emergency vehicles with additional air bags, side curtain air bags and advanced seatbelts. According to Spartan’s website the system “provides best-in-class protection against frontal impact, rollover, side impact and occupant ejection.”
“The safety improvement in this truck is just huge,” Siddell said.
Responding to an emergency call is a particularly hazardous undertaking for firefighters. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), Motor Vehicle Collisions (MVCs) have accounted for between 20 and 25 percent of firefighter fatalities annually. About 27 percent of fatalities killed in MVCs were ejected from the vehicle at the time of the collision with only 21 percent of firefighters reportedly wearing their seatbelts prior to the collision. Siddell pointed out that Solon Fire has a strict seatbelt policy in place to where the vehicle doesn’t leave the station until all occupants are seated and belted-in.
The engine will be a featured attraction at Spartan’s booth in one of the largest fire service trade shows when it goes to the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC), which will be held from April 22 through 27, 2013 in Indianapolis, Ind. at the Indiana Convention Center-Lucas Oil Stadium. The APS is the main selling point, and for allowing Spartan to put the truck on display, the APS was installed at no cost, a savings of several thousand dollars. After the conference, the engine will make its way home to Solon.