The Servicing of Fire Apparatus

The Servicing of Fire Apparatus


IN opening this paper, I want to compliment the manufacturers of fire apparatus for the wonderful progress which they have made in the design and building of equipment. It was only a few years ago that pumping engines had a hard time delivering 250 gallons of water at 300 lbs. pressure, while today, with constant improvement, these manufacturers have stepped the performance of equipment far up and beyond that point what any of us had hoped for, as witnessed by the new high pressure engines which the city of New York has just recently purchased. To be able to deliver 1,000 gallons of water at better than 160 lbs. pump pressure, and 300 gallons at 600 lbs. pump pressure, and with less horse power than we used ten years ago, in my opinion at least, is a very worthy achievement, because with an engine of this type you can get any number of gallons of water at any desired pressure by simply opening the throttle.

Ladder Truck Design

I do not believe that ladder truck design has kept up with the progress of engine design, although I realize that the number of aerial ladder trucks sold throughout the country is relatively small as compared with engines. A service truck which is not over 34 feet long and weighing 12,000 lbs. carries all the equipment that an aerial ladder truck carries, except of course the aerial ladder itself. An aerial ladder truck measures 62 ft. over all and weighs 22,000 lbs., which is a difference of 10,000 lbs., merely to give an addition 30 feet in ladder height. I firmly believe there is a lot of room for improvement in connection with the design of aerial ladders. It should not be a great deal longer than a service truck for our present day traffic conditions and should not weigh over 3,000 lbs. more. It should be so constructed that it can be used effectively in place of a water tower, because today high buildings are no longer confined to the high value district, but are scattered all over the city, and there are times when you have to use equipment of this type in order to get at fires above the third or fourth floor.

Obsolete Equipment

I would estimate that at least seventy per cent of the equipment in use in the United States today is obsolete.

I base this upon the fact that all fire apparatus manufactured before 1928 had only two-wheel brakes. Twowheel brakes are not adequate to stop a heavy fast moving vehicle and you cannot expect a piece of equipment like this to operate on your streets safely. Two-wheel brakes will not give proper performance even on dry pavements, and also, as 1 have already mentioned, the efficiency of the engines and pumps have been greatly increased. Fire service is an emergency service, and the design of the apparatus should be such to be able to conform with the present day traffic conditions. Some people ask “Why don’t you modernize this equipment, putting on four and six wheel brakes?” I, for one, do not believe that it is practical to take any piece of equipment that is six years old, or older, and spend at least $4,000 to modernize it, because after all when this work is completed, you still have the same vehicle with major parts that are antiquated, or shall I say, over age. Another thing, it is not just a matter of putting axles and brakes under these jobs; it means that you have to start from the spring shackles, putting in new springs to take care of the torque reaction; new axles, new wheels, new tires, new stearing gears, new transmissions and new fenders, besides numerous other things, such as brake and pedal shafts, equalizing shafts, etc., and also don’t overlook the fact that you would have to have a well equipped shop with expert mechanics to even consider these changes. I personally feel that the I. A. F. C. Convention could accomplish wonderful results along these lines, and incidentally do a great thing for each and every city, if a resolution was passed calling attention to the danger of obsolete fire equipment, and I think it would go a long way in helping some of us at budget time in getting sufficient appropriations to renew some of our equipment.

Small Tools

Some of the small tools carried by the different departments throughout the country could be re-designed to make them much more efficient. Hose rollers give a lot of trouble, particularly so when lines of hose are taken up above the fifth floor. The couplings will not roll over on the present type of hose roller, in fact have to be lifted over the roller.

Bar cutters are slow in operation and difficult to operate, especially if the man is working from a ladder.

Putting a hole through a concrete floor is a very difficult task. At the present time there is not a tool on the market outside of the sledge and cement pick for doing this job, and if some manufacturer would design and build an electric concrete hammer for going through cement floors, I know all Fire Chiefs would be in the market for them. A hammer of this type could be carried on every ladder truck and would be at the fire when you want it.

Motor School

I believe that a motor school in ever}’ city is very essential, as the average man a great number of time forgets how to operate an engine properly, and with instructions once or twice a year, there is no question but what it will be a great, help to him.

In our motor school we teach the men to draft from a 15-foot lift, and also teach them heavy running from a hydrant. One thing we impress upon our engineers, and that is, as soon as his engine is placed at the hydrant and he is delivering water, his first duty is to look at the water in the radiator, the oil in the crankcase and the gas in the tank. The reason for this being, that in coming to the fire he may have thrown most of his water out of the radiator, or he may not have as much gas as he should, although these tanks are supposed to be kept filled at all times. The reason for looking at the oil is because, if his engine is on a side hill, his oil level gauges naturally will not read correctly.

Another important thing is the driving up to a hydrant to connect up. Most drivers will approach the hydrant too fast, and perhaps over-run the hydrant. Then when they get out to connect up line! that they are three or four feet too far away. This can all be avoided if the man will drive his engine into the hydrant slowly, making sure that it is the proper distance away. He will save more time than he would by rushing in and not being properly placed. In departments where it is impossible to have a motor school, I would recommend that at least once a month pumping engines be taken out and worked to full capacity for a period of about 15 to 20 minutes. This should be done both from draft and at the hydrant. Ordinarily an engine that will run 15 to 20 minutes will continue to run, the critical point being in the first 15 or 20 minutes. In smaller departments they do not have enough actual pumping service at fires to keep the men thoroughly familiar with their engines when operating under wide open throttle conditions.

Servicing Apparatus

In the servicing of apparatus I am going to give you a rough outline of the way we handle this in our shops. We, of course, have a very complete shop, which includes a Machine Shop, Hose Repair Department, Battery and Ignition Department, Ladder Department, Paint Shop, Acetylene Welding Department, and a very complete stock room, and we do all of our own work with the exception of cylinder re-grinding.

We make it a point to have each piece of apparatus pass through our shop at least once a year, although our newer equipment does not always get in the schedule. Each car that is to be overhauled is given a road test to determine the condition of the clutch, transmission, brakes, steering and chassis faults, and in the case of an engine, a test is made in our test room for pump capacity and motor condition. If a ladder truck, the raising of the aerial and a complete examination of all short ladders and equipment is made. This information is all placed on a card for the guidance of the workmen.

After repairs have been made—which means the overhauling and inspection of the inside of motor, taking down clutch, inspection transmission, and rear axle carriers, conditioning brakes and all looseness in chassis, and the overhauling of fire pumps, if necessary—the apparatus is then given a final test. In the case of an engine, the test also includes another run of the fire pumps in the test room where the engine has to make its rated capacity and high pressure test. We endeavor in all of our overhauling work to have each unit worked on by the same man or team, that is, the motor work is done by two men, the clutch and transmission by two others, and so on, as we have found that we obtain a better and more dependable class of work.

Equipment Inspection Service Maintained

We maintain an inspection service throughout the department which gives us a check on each piece of equipment on an average of once a month. An inspector visits each house, checking the apparatus fully, making all minor repairs at that time, and noting all other conditions on a form provided for that purpose. Also, one of these forms are made out by each company at the end of each month and forwarded to our Bureau. These reports are very helpful and enables us to have a list of all necessary major repairs to be made, and also gives us a schedule of apparatus coming into the shop. This inspection service has also been the means of averting delays or failures in the operation of equipment.

Emergency service is available 24 hours a day, with two men on each shift. During the day or night all calls for minor repairs are handled through this service, and in the case of a major breakdown a reserve piece of equipment is sent to the company, and the emergency crew takes over the disabled vehicle.

Our service parts are all located in our shop, which also includes tires of all sizes. We carry no extra tires on our fire fighting equipment, except Chiefs’ cars and rescue cars, hut depend ujxm our inspection and rapid emergency work for the replacements.

In the replacement of jiarts. we have found it very good policy to use only those recommended hv the manufacturer.

Importance of Ignition Systems

In closing, I want to call attention to one of the most important things on your fire apparatus, and that is the ignition systems. This is of great importance, as there is no other single thing which will affect the performance of an engine as that of the ignition system being out of time. Your average garage men do not as a rule know the correct setting and I would advise each of you to write the Service Department of the manufacturer whose equipment you are using, giving the model number, etc., and ask for the correct magneto and battery system setting. You should also ask the manufacturer’s recommendation for spark plugs for your particular model engine, as it has been our experience that veryfew plugs will operate satisfactorily in fire engines.

(Excerpts from a paper read before the Annual Convention of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.)

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