Langford Fire Rescue has a new pumper truck in their lineup and this latest addition to their fleet is all about safety.
Fire Chief Bob Beckett said the new truck features some special upgrades and extra features, “like airbags, which are not standard in fire trucks.”
In the U.S., vehicle crashes accounted for 12 per cent of firefighter deaths last year. While provincial legislation, such as the move over law, is geared at reducing those statistics in Canada, being injured or even killed in crash while responding to or returning from a call is always a concern for firefighters noted Beckett. He added “council continually has allowed us to get the very best technology and some great safety features.”
Coun. Lillian Szpak, chair of Langford’s protective services committee, said “safety is priority number one for our firefighters.”
She pointed to the truck that will soon be decommissioned, noting the open cabin design that exposes firefighters to all of the elements.
Firefighter Brian Bell, who played a key role in communicating with the manufacturer and customizing the vehicle to meet the department’s needs, noted the exposed cabin also makes communicating inside the truck harder.
Besides airbags and a closed-cabin design, the new engine features the latest technology for mobile data terminals.
Bell explained this technology a little further. “We’ve got dual screens in the front,” he said. “Safety wise it allows the driver to just drive,” and whomever is in the right seat can operate the controls.
The truck is also 100 per cent lit by LEDs, which negates the need for a generator to power external lights. That feature alone saved the department roughly $20,000. “That is a big change for us,” Bell noted. “The alternator on the truck can run all of the systems.”
From an operational standpoint, Beckett noted, the engine will be uniformly fitted with equipment and settings to match others in the department’s fleet.
“Everything is in the same place,” he said, adding that saves precious time and is one less thing for firefighters to think about.
That way, added Bell, “it doesn’t matter what truck you arrive on.”
Since the engine also needs to look the same as others in the fleet, a lot of preplanning was done for the customization work, and Bell hopes to have the truck in service by the end of the month.
Bell was part of the team that went down to South Dakota to pick up the engine at the end of September.
“It’s exciting, you go to the factory and do the inspection on it,” he said. “It’s a good feeling … I’m looking forward to getting it on the road.”
Another new feature on this engine is that every valve on the exterior panel is electronic, as opposed to the old push-pull valves. “It can be really hard to pull those valves,” Bell noted but the new system is all done by the push of a button.
“You can do it all from here … Everything is available to them from the panel.” Firefighters don’t just have control of water flow from that panel, all of the external lighting can also be operated from there, where in older models firefighters would have to jump back into the truck to fire up the generator.
Beckett added, “it’s all safety related.”
The engine can also pump 1,250 gallons of water per minute.
The arrival of the new truck means two vehicles are leaving Station 1 on Peatt Road. Engine 1 will be moved from there to Station 3 on Sooke Lake Road, while a 1990-built truck that is no longer insurable will be decommissioned. A 2004 engine will come from Station 3 to Station 1 as a replacement.
“We enhance the longevity of the vehicles,” explains Beckett of the complex juggling act. By moving vehicles with more hours to stations where they will see less use or wear and tear helps the department get the full 20-year life expectancy out of them.
Szpak added, “it’s a really good efficient use of our equipment.” And when a machine costs roughly $650,000 they want to make sure they last as long as possible and they get the maximum use out of their investment, she said.
As for what will happen to the 1990 truck, that has yet to be decided. That decision will be left to council, and Szpak said in the past they have donated equipment to other departments in need, with engines going to Belize, Mexico and Thetis Island. “It does reflect the values of our community.”