New Engine 221 — it’s red!Published 11:14pm Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Dowagiac’s new $406,340 combination pumper and rescue truck, red Engine 221, is like a department on wheels with 30,000 pounds of gear stowed inside.
Custom-built in South Haven to replace two pieces of equipment, it’s 37 feet long and towers 10 feet, three inches, tall.
The cab itself can carry six — two in front and four seatbelted in the rear seat.
It’s been on nine calls and with shifts every third day, Shift Officer Robert Nelson figures he made seven, including guiding it up icy Dutch Settlement Street to a personal-injury accident.
Cabinets along one side conceal all tools related to cracking open crushed cars, such as stabilization jacks and jaws and spreaders with a hydraulic tether so responders can “grab and go,” roaming 100 feet from the vehicle.
Instead of a tarp across the top to cover hoses, two doors flip up along the middle.
Other compartments contain tripods and air fans for confined spaces.
“Like when Street and Bridge goes out to replace a sewer,” Nelson said, “by law they’re supposed to have monitoring and some type of rescue there or on standby. As a matter of fact, we’re doing Florence Street with them deep down in a pit this week. With this truck, we’ve got power, monitoring devices, fans.”
Ladders reside out of sight in the middle of the truck. “Through the center of the tank. It’s built like a doughnut,” Nelson said, at this moment sounding more like a magician revealing how an illusion is achieved than a firefighter.
The 1982 DUHS graduate first joined the department in 1985 and left in 2001 to go on the road, building Taco Bells and remodeling restaurants.
Last April he won his second Fireman of the Year trophy at Wolverine Mutual Insurance Co.’s annual banquet.
“Everything’s organized,” he said, turning the corner from fans along the back to four suits at the rear of the passenger side used for cold-water rescue.
A bin of what looks like firewood is for blocking vehicles.
“This is a nice feature,” Nelson says. “We get a lot of gas leaks and there’s no washing gasoline down sewers anymore. We have 200 pounds up above of Kitty Litter and a valve and there’s a pipe here where we fill up these green buckets. This section is a big hopper with a dispenser so we don’t have to carry bags of it.”
“Guy and Hutch spent a year designing it,” Nelson said of Capt. Guy Evans and Deputy Chief Dale Hutchings.
“It is truly custom-built. I think the main thing they wanted to do was to get something that replaced two vehicles. When you’re a one-man station during the day” with up to a half dozen others on-call, “when you show up with this vehicle at an accident,” everything needed is at hand in one trip.
The department’s firetruck fleet numbers four, including a grass rig.
Engine 221 is so named because “2” is Dowagiac’s designation; “21” refers to its status as the second pumper.
Trucks all put out at least 1,500 gallons per minute (GPM) except for the grass truck’s 250. The other three vehicles, including the first pumper dispatched to house fires and a ladder truck bought in 1999, are yellow.
High-pressure air bags for rescue occupy another section. Everything is color-coded so with controls air can be increased to the green hose or decreased to the red line. “We run our hand lines at 80 to 90 pounds” of pressure.
“They haven’t wasted a space,” he says, pointing out cubbyholes for extra air bottles.
“There are big, long, 6,000-pound air cylinders mounted in the body so we have an air line and head out with air bags, air chisel, air whatever and have an also unlimited supply of air at the scene. Some departments do use that system to fill their Scott bottles. We don’t,” Nelson said Tuesday afternoon.
Another closet contains old-fashioned brooms and shovels, in contrast to other extensions which snake out from the truck like octopus tentacles.
“This is the first truck Dowagiac’s had with foam,” said Nelson. “In the past, we basically had to dump buckets into the tank. We carry about 30 gallons of foam on this truck. You run a handline out and it’s all digital. Once you charge that line, you press a button to set a digital percentage from zero to 10 percent foam. We usually run about 3 percent, or three gallons of foam for every 300 gallons of water. It’s injected in automatically.”
The big black pipe which swings from the front bumper like a leaf vacuum works like a straw to boost “draft” in rural areas.
“There’s only 1,100 gallons of water on the truck,” Nelson said. “We probably went through 50,000 gallons at Drake’s,” the Glenwood general store which burned March 3.
“It gets water out of a portable source. You shuttle water there because you don’t have hydrants in the country. Wayne Township or Cass would come in with their tankers and be able to drop into our portable tank.”
While the control panel on the platform up top looks like the sound board for a rock concert, Nelson points out for tours that all the nozzles and lines are color coded.
“You’ve got to keep it simple because you get spaghetti on the ground, like we had out there in Wayne Township the other night” with multiple departments working side by side.
“We could see the sky lit up from the Moose Lodge,” he said. “When it broke out, it broke out,” although this new truck doesn’t need much help finding its way in the dark. Its light tower unfolds to a height of 20 feet.
Additional lights on each side illuminate a roadside accident scene upon arrival with the flip of a switch before anyone steps off the truck.
As for the return to red, which the department put to a vote, Nelson said, “This is totally lit up with LED red emergency lights, so visibility is not a problem at night.”
In the era of yellow trucks, “To add lights to a truck took too much voltage off the alternator.”
The fire department has five paid positions — Hutchings, Capts. Guy Evans and Mike Mattix, Lt. Jeff Gollnick and Nelson.
Hutchings is deputy chief, as is Steve Grinnewald for the Police Department, with former police chief Tom Atkinson over both divisions as public safety director.
The rest of the department is divided into three on-call groups with seven each under Lts. Robert Smith, Bob’s brother, Billy Nelson, and Doug Michels.
Tags: Dowagiac Fire Department