Spec It

A pair of Elkhart Scorpion cab-controlled remote-control deck guns with three-quarter-million candlepower Collins spotlights and the choice of smooth-bore or TFT automatic tips provides pump-and-roll water, CAFS, gel or Class A foam fire attack and exposure coverage.

Spec It: Smart and Simple - Part V

From lights to foam, a look at
Rattlesnake, Colorado's details


This article originally appeared in the January 2000 Issue of FireRescue Magazine. This is the fifth in a series of Fire Department 2000 articles featuring innovative apparatus, equipment and ideas that break with tradition and take a new path to protect the public.

Throughout its specification process, the Rattlesnake (Colorado) Fire Protection District (RFPD) aimed for bare-bones apparatus controls and the easiest operation possible. It designed cabs like passenger cars for simplicity and to ease the training burden. It removed the clutter of the standard gauge- and switch-laden panel. The department's minimalist approach resulted in a driver's dash with only a speedometer, fuel gauge and idiot lights.

One switch operates all emergency-response lights. Another switch controls the siren. Both switches offer only two options: on or off. Gone are the individual switches common in fire service tradition. When the engine starts, the headlights turn on. When the driver sets the parking brake, the headlights shut down. A car-like starter switch replaces separate master, ignition and start switches, and controls the indicator lights.

All-Wheel Drive

The all-wheel-drive, tandem-axle chassis with six flotation tires improves maneuverability on the district's difficult roads. The front-axle lock-up lever, differential lock and Jake brake on/off switches are located together on a white panel. This places all bad-weather controls in one area. Super-single tandem tires replace tandem duals. The wide-track rear axle lets the rear tires stay in ruts made by the front tires to ensure that the rig's tires plow a track through mud and snow only once. One spare tire works on any axle. Electronic traction control and anti-lock brakes improve stopping and accelerating on difficult surfaces. The wheelbase is 242 inches. Overall height is 11 feet, 4 inches. Overall length is 39 feet. The vehicle weight rating is 60,000 pounds.


Phoenix Fire Department Chief Alan Brunacini recently said, "If you buy a fire truck without a compressed air foam system (CAFS), it's obsolete." All of Phoenix's rigs carry CAFS. RFPD selected a water-tank size that allows a fire flow of 250 gallons of water per minute, or 1,650 gpm CAFS. This offers good fire-suppression ability until the next-in company arrives and a shuttle or resupply can begin. Using the department's innovative apparatus-design criteria and Insurance Services Office (ISO) rules, the new units, in conjunction with the old apparatus, can sustain 2,033 gpm for a half mile, 1,675 gpm for one mile, 1,205 gpm for two miles, 940 gpm for three miles, 771 gpm for four miles and 654 gpm for five miles. That allows an indefinite water supply to all four preconnected attack lines or a combination of attack lines and master streams. With CAFS, each unit has simultaneous use of seven handlines and two master streams.


The Zico ladder rack drops down to make access to the 24-foot and 35-foot ladders easier.

Water Flow

A fire at any home in RFPD would require an interior flow of 160 gpm to 320 gpm, using the Iowa State formula. The department can handle that easily with one or two attack lines. At 20 feet by 60 feet, the largest room in the district would require only 150 gpm. Total water required, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is 2,286 to 4,571 gallons. Add an exposure, and the requirement jumps to 6,857 gallons. With the first two units out of one station bringing 5,400 gallons of water and CAFS capability, tank water should take care of most single-family dwellings. Within 13 minutes, another 8,800 gallons would arrive from the rest of the district's stations.

An Intec TV screen for the driver and officer provides images from the roof-mounted thermal imager, rear-vision camera or the Bullard handheld thermal imagers that the firefighters carry.

The busy roof performs everything from forward floodlighting, thermal imaging and water-level monitoring. The red strobe light and 8-inch gong are connected to the warning systems on the vehicle from engine to transmission, compressor to fire pump, and radio-transmitting accountability to hydraulic tool pump. If any report a problem, every firefighter on the fireground knows.

A modest rehab area in the cab offers ice, cold drinks, ice cream, 12 gallons of hot or cold water, a microwave, 20 cubic feet of food storage, hot and cold cup dispensers, and regular and decaffeinated coffee.

CAFS lets you spray exposures once, as opposed to using a constant stream of water. According to ISO figures, a fire at an RFPD home without exposures would need 60,000 gallons to 120,000 gallons of water, or 500 gpm to 1,000 gpm, for two hours. That amounts to 30 gallons per square foot, or water four feet deep throughout the house. A demand for that much water underlines the need for shuttles and long relays.

ISO flow requirements determine the district's insurance rating and mirror the fire-flow requirements of the Uniform Fire Code. Iowa State formulas are based on more than 100 actual fires. NFPA-based flows can probably put out most fires, but RFPD used ISO design criteria.


A 45-gallon Class A foam tank allows low- and medium-expansion foam and CAFS. RFPD mounted a foam-can wrench next to the foam fill. The foam tank treats 22,500 gallons of water, or nine water-tank loads. The department carries enough foam to make 19,200 gallons to 480,000 gallons of expanded foam, which equals 2,566 cubic feet to 64,162 cubic feet. With a shuttle or hydrant supply, RFPD can make 180,000 gallons to 4,500,000 gallons of foam, or 24,060 cubic feet to 601,523 cubic feet.

The above-the-pump dunnage area provides room for additional Class A foam and gel storage. The gel instantly turns water into a Vaseline-like goop that helps prevent water runoff. It works even on vertical surfaces for at least 24 hours on a windy, 100-degree day. With only one firefighter to drive the rig, RFPD can cover homes in gel or CAFS using two bumper-mounted master streams controlled from the cab.

The unit can make a firebreak 520 feet wide and four miles long with each load of water. That equals a bulldozer line 65 blades wide. It can also cover as many as 48 homes with CAFS using only one load of water. The department can stop running roof fires while the vehicle is in motion. A single 350-gpm CAFS deck gun, supplied by tank water, can operate for 48 minutes, or two guns can function for 24 minutes. A 350-gpm deck-gun water stream goes for seven minutes. A 180-gpm water attack line can operate for 13 minutes off tank water. A 90-second, 700-gpm blitz attack with water still allows seven minutes of 180-gpm mop up.

The Foam Pro system selected by RFPD has a maximum proportioning rate of 880 gpm of water and a minimum flow rate of 20 gpm. It can supply all seven preconnected lines simultaneously, or both guns and two attack lines. Foam controls consist of an on/off switch and a metering knob. The metering knob is preset with foam on all the time.

The front bumper not only sports attack lines, it offers instant deployment for a preconnected Phoenix tool cutter and spreader, and a cord light with a 750-watt ALPHA 2000 light head on a Tele-Lite base with on/off switch and an electrical outlet for running other tools. Both tools have 150-foot reels located above the pump that run cords through piping to the front bumper where they are easily accessible.

The attack lines are color-coded, donut-roll, preconnected loads for one-firefighter deployment and reloading. If one firefighter can deploy and reload attack lines, others are free to perform different tasks. The bumper sports a 200-foot mixed line of 1- and 2-inch hose. The attack lines connect to Akron water thieves.

Thermal Imaging

Any new fire engine must be able to work in heavy smoke. During a major wildland fire, heavy-smoke conditions can make driving impossible, and the probability of running into another vehicle is high. In addition, structure protection often occurs downwind. Sometimes a driver has no choice but to drive through heavy smoke or park a fire truck downwind on a structure fire, which restricts the amount of information available to make an accurate size-up and good decisions.

Structure firefighting also requires that crews work in heavy smoke and darkness. It's unrealistic to expect a group of crawling firefighters to find occupants of a multilevel home quickly and safely every time. Also, locating a fire in heavy smoke is difficult.

The ability to look through walls and ceilings could significantly improve the quality of any department's fire-attack skills and increase crew safety. To enable RFPD's command to act as the second set of eyes on any interior fire attack or rescue operation and view what goes on in real time, the department bought thermal imagers.

The roof-mounted Intec thermal imager is on a gimbal for stability. Controlled by a joystick with two flat-panel LCD head-up displays, the imager lets the driver and officer navigate in heavy smoke. With this device, the crew can see flying brands in a smoke column and downed power lines during a grass fire. The crew can determine the liquid level of propane tanks or see victims on the side of the road in total darkness. The imager improves the driver's vision over high-beam lights and lets firefighters know what floor and side of a home is burning, and whether the attic is involved.

The Maxi Force 88-ton lift-bag set and Ajax Tool air chisel are both preconnected with color-coded lines and attached to a 150-foot reel for immediate use. On/offs on the bags let one regulator run four bags.

An Intec VCR records rooftop and portable imagers and rear-vision systems. The Grace Industries GEM system tracks firefighters on scene by name and automatically turns itself on. Within 25 seconds, command knows if a firefighter is down. The GEM system is hooked to a gong and strobe on the cab roof to broadcast as needed.

A handheld Bullard thermal imager goes in with the attack crew to speed rescues by letting the crew see as well as it could in a fully lit structure and no smoke. Whatever the imager sees, it transmits to command. An officer's dash-mounted VCR can record the vehicle imager and portable imagers' outputs. Handheld imagers have two-channel transmission capability. The displays let the crew monitor one or two imagers at once. On campaign fires or all-night standbys when there's time to kill, crews can watch videos.

The crew mounted a square, directional-imager antenna inside the raised section of the command cab. The imager stores next to the officer's seat in a quick-release mount with a charger and spare battery. An Intec rear-vision backup camera with a front-to-rear, two-way, voice-operated, hands-free intercom lets the driver hear someone say "Stop," and it integrates into the head-up displays as well.


When you don't have streetlights, you bring lighting with you. The RFPD power plant is a 25,000-watt hot-shift power-take-off-driven (PTO) generator that can be engaged while a rig moves at any speed. It's large enough to run electricity at each of the district's fire stations or the golf course clubhouse in an emergency.

Standard lighting on each rig includes a 6,000-watt, 24-foot telescopic light mast, with a 20-foot remote tether-control mounted in a compartment on the pump panel. The remote control turns the lights on and off, and tilts and pans. It raises and automatically stows the mast. The mast lets a unit brightly light a home 100 feet to 500 feet up a driveway. A red strobe light on the mast warns motorists on hilly roads that fire crews are working an auto accident long before their vehicles get close to the scene.

The department wanted the option of turning the generator and floodlights on while driving --- that helps read addresses, locate vehicles off the side of the road, look for lost children, navigate off-road and make a good size-up. It also wanted to eliminate the need to raise and turn on floodlights before use. Throwing only one switch in the cab turns on all lights. Eight fixed 1,000-watt floodlights, two per vehicle side, help illuminate dark sides of the apparatus. Dual floods provide redundancy in case of a bulb failure on any side. The front of the apparatus has 2,750 watts of illumination. Each side has 3,750 watts, and the rear has 2,000 watts.

Cord Lights

RFPD wanted instant portable floodlighting without connecting anything. One floodlight for each attack line looked ideal. Three 750-watt floodlights attach to reels: one on each side midship below the pump suctions and one out the front bumper. The light heads sit in slide-out brackets. Each 150-foot reel consists of 50-foot cords to allow make-and-breaks. The cord size provides runs of up to 750 feet to supply a light. Each cord light has a covered 110/120 outlet for running another electrical device without removing the floodlight from the cord. An on/off switch on the light head enables the department to store an attached light to a reel ready to go.


Two 1,000-watt, 8-foot tripod lights attach to 150-foot reels that are ready to go. They mount on the cab's side to supplement fixed lighting. Pulling one knob releases the tripod from the bracket. The tripods are especially handy to place on the rear corners of a burning house to illuminate the back of the structure at the same level as the front, leaving the fireground free of shadows. Reel-side mounting lets the crew grab a cord light as they leave the cab. Each unit has a total of 18,150 watts of lighting.

There are two to four electrical outlets on each side of each unit and six in the cab for power distribution and cord make-and-breaks. The grounded, fault-interruption circuitry protects all circuits. With five portable lights and 750 feet of cord, the units should be able to handle all projected electrical needs.

Standardizing equipment can help any department improve service. By sharing their learning experiences, departments across the country can help each other spec rigs that can do the best job possible.

David Doudy is an 18-year veteran of the Dolores (Colorado) Fire Protection District and is co-owner of Firestorm Construction Company.

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