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The Rig: It’s All About the Water

By Ricky Riley

“The engine companies, or hose carriers as they are sometimes called, are manned by firemen whose chief responsibility is to get water on the fire.” This is a quote from a film called “Your Fire Department” that was made in 1949 about the Los Angeles (CA) Fire Department. This quote is still relevant and should be considered by today’s engine companies when we build new fire apparatus. Is your new engine or hose carrier built around the concept of receiving water and discharging water so we can get water on the fire?

I recently looked at a rig from Mechanicsville, Maryland, that certainly meets the criteria to be built to receive water and deliver it to the fire. The apparatus was delivered to the department this year and has features that allow the engine to receive the water supply in a number of ways. By having these features incorporated on the rig, the crew can park tactically at various incident types and still have the ability to receive water supply via a number of intake options. 

Some features of the rig are:

  • 750 gallons of water
  • 1,250 single-stage pump
  • 172.50-inch wheelbase
  • 30-foot 1.50-inch overall length
  • 500-hp Detroit engine
  • 45,740-pound GVRW

Starting with the front of the apparatus, there is a 22-inch bumper extension that houses a front bumper line and a bin to hold 30 feet of four-inch soft suction hose. It is attached to the front suction piping which has a swivel connection for easier connections and helps alleviate kinks. This connection setup is mainly used for hydrant connection. This setup creates a number of positioning options for drivers, so they can achieve the connection and also position the rig so it’s out of the way and not blocking the streets or access to the incident scene.

Going to the officer’s side of the apparatus, Mechanicsville has a setup that quickly allows for receiving or delivering water. They store 50 feet of four-inch supply line that is connected to a large diameter discharge. This setup allows for rapid deployment to supply aerial devices or to units in a rural water supply operation. The addition of an intake valve at the side intake, allows for the hose to be easily disconnected from the discharge and placed on the intake. This setup, with the use of Storz couplings, is a quick and efficient operation if required on the incident scene.

The rear of the engine is set up very nicely with a low hosebed and is prepared to deliver and receive water in a number of ways. A number of attack line choices give the officer the ability to select the right length and diameter necessary for the building size or involvement of fire he is confronted with. A static bed of 2½-inch line with a smooth bore nozzle allows for the deployment of a big line. A discharge right below allows for a quick disconnect of the line and hook up. The supply line is 1,500 feet of four-inch supply line that has a unique set up. They run yellow supply line on the majority of the bed but place a section of red hose at the middle of the bed. This is done so when they look in the mirror when laying out, they will know when they’ve reached the halfway point. They also place two sections of red supply line at the very end so they can see the end of the bed. This is a pretty neat idea for departments with long lays. 

The supply line has a humat valve attached at the end that is mounted on the tailboard for easy deployment at the hydrant. This valve allows for a continuous flow of water when the second engine arrives and hooks to the hydrant to pump the supply line. The rear compartment that is standard on most engines has been modified and serves as storage for hose appliances and a rear intake. This rear intake has a 25 feet section of  four-inch attached to it and is controlled by the new Akron Revolution Intake Valve. This allows for the supply line to be disconnected and quickly attached to the rear intake, keeping the supply line in perfect line with the engine. By not running the supply line around to a side intake, it allows more room for apparatus to access the street or lane. This design and thought process directly reflects the department’s response area, a consideration all departments should take in to account when designing their next apparatus. Design it for your area, not what the last rig had or what you saw in a magazine.

The driver’s side pump panel is a compact 45 inches and has a gated wye attached to the intake that can receive two three-inch or 2½-inch lines to supply the pump. It also has two additional 2½-inch discharges to supply attack lines or supply lines.

When looking over this rig, it’s evident the department took into consideration a variety of scenarios for receiving water and supplying water on their firegrounds and those of their neighboring departments. This well thought out apparatus should perform superbly on fires with the combination of excellent design features and the practice and training of the drivers and firefighters who will ride it. All the best bought options and designs are nothing without the constant training and practicing of the skills and habits needed to make this unit perform to its design potential. With this well thought out design process, I’m sure this department and their new rig will deliver outstanding service to their community and the surrounding areas.

Thanks to Randy Swartz from Atlantic Emergency Solutions and John Raley of the Mechanicsville (MD) Volunteer Fire Department for their assistance in this article.

RICKY RILEY is operations chief for the Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and a member of the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as chief of department. He also served for 20 years with the Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue before his retirement in 2005. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.

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