The Turlock Fire Department will dedicate two fire engines, including one that toured the country demonstrating custom features designed by Turlock firefighters, at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Public Safety Center, Broadway and Olive Avenue.
One will replace Turlock’s lemon engine, the infamous Engine 32 that inspired Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth to launch a campaign to give cities redress for vehicles that fail to perform.
The entirely new, Rosenbauer Engine 32 comes with an easy-access engine and a lifetime warranty for its extruded aluminum body. After the ceremony it will go back to the shop for final fittings before taking up its post at Station 2 in the industrial southwest part of town.
The road show star, Engine 34, however, will head to active duty at Station 4 in northwest Turlock. The stations nearest Highway 99 get the new rigs, Battalion Chief Mike Harcksen said, because they are outfitted with more of the heavy duty gear used to pry apart wrecked cars, stabilize big rigs and bring the injured up embankments.
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While fire engines still have to be ready to douse the flames, today they spend more time heading for medical calls. Who ya’ gonna call? If it’s something nobody thought could go wrong, chances are it will be the fire department who rides to the rescue.
As firehouse duties expanded, workhorse engines became catch-alls, with everything from defibrillators to extra nozzles shoved into whatever compartments could fit them. As a result, firefighters often arrived at calls and spent precious moments finding and pulling gear from all sides.
There had to be a better way, and Harcksen, Capt. David Mallory and Engineer Peter Becchetti designed it.
The goal was to outfit it for 15 years in the fire system.
Capt. Mike Harcksen
The team spent six months developing the concepts and refining the details with local Rosenbauer rep Ken Howenstine. The engine cost $598,000, with $40,000 knocked off the price for the road trip, said Harcksen. The rig drove from Minnesota to Turlock via curious fire departments in Texas, Colorado and the Bay Area. The second engine cost $650,000, with some savings from trading in the old Engine 32, a relatively new vehicle.
The new design has a place for everything, “which means if they see an empty space, they know they’re leaving something behind,” said Harcksen.
Firefighting gear goes on the driver’s side of the engine. The “engineer’s office” has a bank of pump gauges and water flow readers and a camera’s eye view of the scene on the other side of the engine.
Medical and extrication gear goes on the sidewalk side of the engine. Pry bars, spreaders, and first aid supplies each have their own place. Orange traffic cones pull out from a tilting pole. Mounted lights all around the engine illuminate the scene.
Both sides of the engine have pull-out shelves, drawers and vertical panels that keep heavy gear generally between the hip and shoulder for easy lifting. Slats and interior doors have mounted tools – no more bouncing around in a catch-all compartment. There’s even a spot for a bin holding service pamphlets for the elderly and donated teddy bears for kids at emergency scenes.
Extra space around the wheels fits pipe-shaped holders for extra oxygen bottles and a ladder up the back leads to extra storage. The traditional, wide-open hose bed has been replaced by vertical stacks of hose in sleeves for ground-level reloading. Fully loaded, the engine carries 2,350 feet of hose, 750 gallons of water.
Inside the extra-large cab, oxygen bottles in ready-to-go shoulder harnesses rest behind the flip-up padding of every seat. The cab, cooled in summer and warmed in winter by a dual-system that powers down while idling, serves as a recovery station for firefighters rotating in and out of fire scenes. A massive center console holds binders with maps of the county, a charging station and radios for city and county dispatches.
A massive bumper in the front, nicknamed “the coffin,” holds two hoses already connected to the pumping system. The front grille lifts off for easy engine maintenance and fluid checks. Replacement parts can be found at local auto parts stores – no need for custom orders.
“The goal was to outfit it for 15 years in the fire system,” Harcksen said.
Dedication of the engines will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Public Safety Center, 244 N. Broadway, Turlock