By Alan M. Petrillo |

Ferrara Fire Apparatus recently delivered eight compact, streamlined pumpers to the San Francisco (CA) Fire Department that allow the department to better negotiate congested streets, and handle the city’s hilly terrain.

Anthony Rivera, assistant deputy chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, says, “Our rigs are unique in terms of needing extra horsepower and torque to get up and down our hills, and we also require the largest brakes possible on our vehicles.” Rivera notes that the angle of approach and departure on the new pumpers “are significantly higher than other fire departments, and we have a minimum requirement for ground level clearance because any components hanging below a certain height will get ripped off when going up or down hills.”

Rivera adds that “We have some extremely narrow alleyways filled with 100-year-old wooden multiresidential units, so we wanted engines with short wheelbases and overall lengths that could negotiate those difficult areas.”

Michael Doran of Ferrara Fire Apparatus says Ferrara’s goal was “to put vehicles on the street that are best suited to San Francisco’s operating conditions. So, we built engines that have a 169-inch wheelbase, an overall length of 28 feet, and a turning radius of 25 feet.” The engines are built on Igniter chassis and cabs with space for six firefighters and have an extruded aluminum body, a Waterous CMU 1,500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) side-mount pump, a 500-gallon water tank, a hosebed capacity of 1,500 feet of three-inch supply line, two rear preconnects of 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose, and one booster line reel on the left above the pump panel.

Rivera says Ferrara incorporated a number of profile-reducing features into the pumpers. “The Code 3 lighting is all recessed, and we have recessed lighted grab bars and a 360-degree camera to help the driver maneuver through tight streets,” he points out. “Those and other streamlining features meant we were able to reduce the vehicle’s overall length and overall width.” As an added safety measure, San Francisco had Ferrara install midship turn signals on each side of the rear of the cab body, low on the rig and just ahead of the pump panel.

Ladders are mounted on the exterior portion of the officer’s side of the rig above the lower compartments. Rivera says that San Francisco went through a period of having ladders mounted in an interior compartment under the hosebed, “but when the engine was facing downhill, because of the angle of the vehicle, the ladder becomes twice the weight to extract. By placing the ladders outside—a 22-foot extension ladder and a 12-foot straight ladder—two firefighters can easily handle them.”

Rivera says the new Ferrara pumpers each carry a solar panel on the roof of their cabs. “We have solar panels on all our fire apparatus now,” he notes. “At an incident, we might be there five minutes or five hours, but our instances of stranded engines or breakdowns because of batteries have gone down significantly since we started using solar panels.” In addition, Rivera says, “The solar panels can charge the rig’s onboard batteries even from fluorescent lighting in the apparatus bays, so they have lowered our maintenance and ready-use costs, and we now are getting full use of the battery life because they are constantly being trickle charged.”

San Francisco also had Ferrara add fuel fill points on each side of the pumper, Rivera says. “A lot of our firehouses are 100 years old, so the dual fuel fill points give us the ability to fill up with fuel and get into the station with a minimum impact to traffic and pedestrians,” he adds.

The many features that Ferrara incorporated into the engines made them much more maneuverable, Rivera says. “Ferrara really embraced technology,” he says, “and we are absolutely happy with the results. Most important, it looks like a San Francisco city rig—a traditional look with updated features. The engines have been received very well by our firefighters.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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