What’s so different about Fire 32 – Part 1

So what made these, or I guess I will say this fire truck, so special? As I have said before, my father did not see things like everyone else, he looked at things how they could be, not as they were. And this was true in how he visualized fire apparatus.

If you don’t know anything about fire apparatus, you may have a tough time understanding some of the things I will be talking about, so I will try to explain them as best I can. If you are a young firefighter, or new to the fire service, you may have a tough time appreciating some of the innovations, as they are now common place on today’s fire appraratus. You need to keep in mind that these concepts were developed in 1961 by a man who had been a fire chief for just seven years, and this was not the FDNY or LA City Fire, this was the Happy Valley Rural Fire District, a fledgling volunteer department in Oregon, where the cowboys and indians were still battling it out.

So let’s talk about some of the of the things to make Fire 32 unique….

1) Automatic transmission, air brakes and power steering on the chassis. You say so what, all trucks have those. Now days they do, but very few trucks, especially fire trucks, had these items in 1961. It didn’t take long for power steering to catch on, but manual transmissions and hydraulic brakes were common place until the mid to late eighties. My father knew his volunteers were just everyday people, not truck drivers, so he wanted vehicles that would be easy to drive and operate. For you truck people, the transmission was an Allison MT-42 6 speed automatic with dual PTO’s. We will talk about those later!

2) The design of the body was very unique in that it was full width with no running boards, similar to today’s rescue bodies. Most fire trucks of the day had exposed fenders with very few compartmments, which required equipment to be mounted outside and exposed to the weather.

Take a look at this mid 60’s Ford F Series pumper that was built by Western States Fire Apparatus, a good example of what was a typical midship pumper. Make note of the running boards, exposed fenders and how the equipment is mounted on the outside of the truck. Also look at the side mounted pump fittings, the top mounted booster reels, the exposed hose bed and the side mounted suction hose. Once again, all typical of fire trucks of the era. 

benton-3-ford-f-midship

Let’s take another look at Fire 32 when it went in service. Looks a little different than the other pumper, doesn’t it? (The upper front compartment did get a door, it just was not installed in this picture).

good-picture-of-f-321

3) All discharges and suctions were out the front and the rear of the vehicle. Typical for the day was to have all discharges and suctions out the right and left side of the vehicle, with a few front suctions showing up from time to time. Fire 32 had two 2 1/2″ discharges and a 5″ suction out the front bumper (visible in the picture) and there were two 2 1/2″ discharges along with a 5″ and 2 1/2″ suction at the rear. Being a rural area, it was not uncommon to lay-in a long line off the main road and relay pump to the fire, so having the inlets and outlets at the front and rear made this job much easier. There was a 5″ inlet directly off the pump located inside the engineers compartment that could be used for pump tests.

4) The open compartment in the picture is storage for the cross mounted pre-connects. Pre-connects, like the name suggests, are 150′ – 200′ long hoses that are already attached to the pump and are pulled to make the initial attack on a fire. There are two things unique here: First, the door on the compartment was mounted so that you lifted it up and slid it into the body so it was out of the way of the charged hose lines, and two, the pre-connects were mounted in aluminum trays that could be pulled out and set on the ground when it came time to reload the hose. This is what we call “speed lays” today. This compartment also housed 1 1/2″ and 2 1/2″ “house bundles” for extending the initial attack lines.

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