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Ready to roll

CFD welcomes new Engine 1

Posted: March 9, 2012 5:02 p.m.
Updated: March 12, 2012 5:00 a.m.

There’s a new truck in town, waiting for its chance to ride into action.

It’s the newly minted Engine No. 1, which arrived at the Camden Fire Department (CFD) March 5.

“It’s very similar to our last two pumpers,” CFD Chief John Bowers said. “We used their specs to begin with because we liked them.”

Bowers said the CFD moved to custom chassis in 1997 and has purchased its fire trucks from Pierce Manufacturing ever since.

“This is our third pierce pumper and our fourth overall,” Bowers said; the CFD purchased its most recent ladder truck from Pierce.

One of the first features to stand out is how ladders are stored on Engine 1 (E1). Early fire trucks mounted ladders on the side, making it impossible to have side storage for tools and other equipment. Later trucks had special compartments for ladders built into the body of the truck.

“While in-board ladder storage gave us side storage compartments, they were shallow,” he said.

The new E1’s ladders are mounted on a giant movable rack that -- while traveling or not in use -- keeps the ladders at the top of the right side of the truck. When needed, firefighters can flip a switch and the arms swing down so they can get at the ladders. The arms are far enough apart and high enough off the ground that firefighters can crouch under them and get at the much deeper side compartments.

Other storage innovations include a swing-out tool bar with mounting boards on both sides and more storage in the interior of the compartment. On the other side of the truck, there’s a pull-out/tilt-down tray that still leaves room for even more tools in the compartment itself.

Another innovation is how E1’s portable generator is handled. In the past, most generators had to be carried in a fire truck’s rear compartment, taking up space that could be used for other equipment.

“Now it’s in the dunnage, or storage, area,” Bowers said, pointing to a spot near the top of the truck’s main body behind the cab. “And, for the first time, it’s a diesel-powered generator, which means it can take advantage of the truck’s built-in system, running off the truck’s fuel.”

Then there’s the mid-mount pump panel.

Step up behind the cab and you’re met with an almost space-age panel of levers, buttons and lights.

“It adds 18 inches to the length of the truck, but we feel like it’s worth it. There was a maneuverability question, but it gets the pump operator up off the ground and not in the way. They can see the fire scene and I can see him,” Bowers said.

With older trucks, the operator would be on the ground; if the fire was on the opposite side of the truck, he couldn’t see what was happening with the fire.

“They used to constantly run around the side of the truck. Now it’s more efficient,” he said.

A set of four small colored lights on the mid-mount panel is replicated in larger size on each side of E1’s cab. The lights let the pump operator and firefighters know how much water is left in the truck. This cuts down on unnecessary communication, Bowers said.

There is also a foam feature that allows the operator to add a .5 percent mixture of foam into the water to help with fire suppression. A “deck gun” will also be installed that can be extended vertically to obtain better angles.

The cab, Bowers said, is a “high rise” configuration so that when a firefighter is all geared up, he doesn’t hit his head on the cab roof. The front of the cab features secondary hose outlets, including space for a forestry hose.

Under the hood, the 400-horsepower engine is actually the first in CFD history to be environmentally friendly. In addition to diesel fuel, E1 also has a urea tank that holds a special mixture used to “scrub” pollutants out of E1’s diesel exhaust.

“It’s supposed to produce zero emissions,” Bowers said. “It burns periodically, getting rid of particulates, almost like a self-cleaning oven.”

Not only that, but E1 can be plugged into the wall.

“The truck has a built-in power converter. We can keep it plugged in to keep the battery level up, and it automatically ejects the plug when we roll,” Bowers said.

On the front top of the cab and on each side of the main body above the mid-mount panel are special LED scene lights. They are also mounted on Engine 2 at CFD Station No. 2 near Dusty Bend. The difference is that E1’s can be turned on while en route; E2’s can’t.

“The operator in the cab can turn them on as they’re driving down the road to locate an address or crash victim,” Bowers said, turning them on for a few minutes.

Another innovation is the way the seats are built into E1’s cab. Four of the seats -- three in the back of the cab and the front passenger seat -- are built with split backs to allow firefighters to wear their air packs en route so they are “ready to go” when they arrive on a scene.

The nearly $500,000 truck replaces a 1972 Mack truck that will be disposed of through the auction site govdeals.com, and a 1986 Ford that will be placed in reserve. Also being put into reserve status will be a 1984 Mack. The current Engine No. 1 the new truck is replacing will be renumbered E8.

There are three other features on the new E1 pointed out by Bowers.

Along both sides of the truck, on either side of the words Camden Fire Department, are two emblems. One shows the shadows of a group of firefighters superimposed over the number “9.”

“That’s for the Charleston 9,” Bowers said, the nine firefighters who died while fighting a massive fire at a Charleston-area sofa store in 2007.

Immediately after the fire, Bowers was asked to assist with the aftermath and acted as a liaison to the family of one of the fallen firefighters, 27-year-old Brandon Kenyon Thompson. The CFD’s Eddie Gardner traveled to Charleston as well, working with the family of Engineer Mark Kelsey. Bowers and Gardner escorted their respective charges to a memorial ceremony at North Charleston Coliseum.

The Charleston 9 logo is their way of honoring their memory, Bowers said.

At the other end is a 9/11 logo, a reminder of the tragedy that took thousands of lives, including hundreds of New York firefighters and paramedics.

Finally, the front of the truck is adorned with a representation of the South Carolina flag.

“Our other trucks have the American flag, and that’s great, but we’d thought we’d do something with South Carolina this time,” Bowers said. “We want this truck to be something the firefighters not only take pride in, but enjoy working on.”

Bowers said it will take about a month to train everyone on the truck’s configuration and to load up and mount all its equipment.

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