GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Firefighters are outfitting three new hybrid trucks designed for both medical calls and the ability to fight fires.
They say they are a cross between the Suburbans that they currently use for medical calls and a pumper truck that carries water.
“This is small enough to still serve like the Suburban, handle medicals, but it also has suppression capability and there’s technology on this one that has the compressed foam system.” said Frank Verburg, Deputy Fire Chief.
“The water tank carries 300 gallons of water and 10 gallons of foam,” said Mark Radius, an equipment operator.
It’s a marriage made in heaven for those managing tight city budgets when fire stations don’t have enough staffing to run big engines on medical calls but want options.
“Let’s say you’re at an automobile accident and something starts on fire,” said Radius. “Well, you’ve got a fire extinguisher in there and that’s about the extent of your firefighting capabilities. This you’re going to have your big foam system which is capable of handling a car fire or anything like that.”
“This will save money because of the gas mileage on a big truck,” says James White, Grand Rapids City Commissioner. “It will have two firefighters instead of three and it will just be more efficient.”
In addition, firefighters said the new units are relatively easy to use.
“You just open that up. It charges the line and mixes all the proportions of water and foam and concentrate everything automatically,” said Radius.
Another handy thing about the hybrid truck is that it has a heater that’s able to keep the water lines from freezing up on a cold day.
“We’re developing a whole new approach to firefighting,” said White.
While this may seem like a new concept, Verburg said the idea of hybrid fire vehicles began a long time ago.
He said some of the ladder trucks didn’t have water tanks at one time, but now they do. The city says as the money from income tax declines and grants start winding down it makes sense to use hybrid medical units.
Verburg said as many as 30 firefighters are expected to retire over the coming years. The department must prepare for the possibility that their positions will not replaced due to tight budgets.
He said the two-man trucks are not replacing the big engines, but on low staffing days they will offer a better option for public safety.
“I think most of the citizens would want us coming with two guys on that with full water capability than this with no water,” said Verburg.