Fire truck mechanic devises system to cool undercarriage

Fire truck mechanic devises system to cool undercarriage
06 June 2012

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USA — The Teton County rural fire departments have a new tool to help in battling fires.

Nick Dale, the assistant fire chief in Fairfield and a mechanic, saw the need and designed a coolant system to help prevent fire trucks from starting fires in standing grain or grass fields.

Last summer several departments faced large wild land fires in costly standing grain crops and large fuel loads. “In particular one fire stood out, as it resulted with extensive damage to one of our brush trucks and put one of our firefighters at great risk,” said Joe Zahara, Teton County fire chief.

The county fire departments have three main priorities when fighting fires — safety and performance, customer service and professionalism.

The fire Zahara referred to happened at harvest time. The FVFD was paged to a wheat field fire. Seeing the plume of smoke and knowing it was going to be a big fire, mutual aid from other departments was requested.

“As we arrived on scene, we had about 50 acres of four-foot standing wheat that was burning very hot and producing a lot of smoke and giving our firefighters a very difficult approach,” said Zahara. “They would normally attack a wild land fire from the black and suppress the fire. But this fire had to be fought from the fuel side, putting everyone at great risk, added Zahara. In an attempt to save the crop that was estimated to be worth $350,000, the fire trucks entered from the fuel side. “In the process, they began to light fires under the brush trucks causing more problems and putting our firefighters at even greater risk,” Zahara said.

After that fire, members of the departments started brainstorming what could be done to be more effective in the suppression efforts, making sure the departments are a solution to the problem and not creating a bigger problem.

Dale said the solution wasn’t too difficult or costly. He came up with the design for a cooling spray bar system to be installed under the brush trucks. “The system is fairly simple and will keep the undercarriage cool if we have to fight a fire from the fuel side,” said Dale. He estimated the cost for parts and installation to be under $150. Considerabley less than the $15,000 damage that was caused to one truck damaged last year.

“We can turn off and on the system as needed and mitigate our own problems and focus on suppression efforts and customer service,” said Dale, in demonstrating how the system works. The system uses approximately three gallons a minute.

Dale is installing the systems on all rural brush trucks operating on gas throughout the county. It is the catalytic converter on the trucks that cause the problem, he added. The Teton County Fire Fee Service Area Board is paying for the systems. Area firefighters are also receiving training on how the system works.

“We would like to get the word out that we learned from our mistakes, and coming up with wild land fire season, we want to be ready,” Zahara said. “Serving our communities is a privilege, whether it’s a true emergency or a situation where a citizen has simply exhausted his or her personal resources, we will exceed the expectations of our communities. We treat our co-workers with dignity and respect, and when diverse opinions emerge, we are consensus builders who do what is best for our organization and communities. We recognize that we are accountable to the public we serve.”

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