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Pump it up

Ottawa boasts 12 new firetrucks


October 28, 2013
by Kara Kuryllowicz

From the Fleet Management October 2013 print edition.

At the end of September 2013, Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) will have taken delivery of the last two of 12 new fire pumpers. The new trucks were manufactured by Kovatch Mobile Equipment, based in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, and the contract was worth $5.9 million, tax included.

“Employee reaction has been very positive,” says Kim Ayotte, deputy chief, communications and asset management, Ottawa Fire Service. “We created partnerships with the firefighters through a joint OFS Vehicle Design Committee. Firefighters were given input through all phases of the project. This translated into employee ‘buy-in’ and anticipation of the delivery. The manufacturer showcased our new pumpers, featuring the ‘Ottawa-developed’ innovations, at different tradeshows in both Canada and the US.”

City of Ottawa Fire Chief John deHooge stressed safety as a key component in the procurement process for the new apparatus, while Fleet Services and Purchasing were instrumental in ensuring the firefighters’ ideas and requests for innovation were heard and incorporated. Priorities included high-visibility and ergonomically placed equipment to ensure the firefighters’ health and safety. By purchasing multiple units at once, OFS was able to lower the final price and come in under budget.

The new trucks are painted white with Reflexite Type 3 material on the lower half. The reflective materials light up under headlights, which silhouettes the firefighters to ensure their protection. Other improvements include an on-board foam system, covered pump panels and a unique design for hose-bed covers that doubles as a fall restraint when firefighters are on top of the truck. In addition, the relocation of the hose lines and nozzles allows them to pull the hoses off without having to climb.

The City of Ottawa uses a very open process for procurement which involves posting a tender on Merx and allowing bidders to submit on a public tender document. Made-in-Canada is not a requirement.

The average, expected lifespan of a fire truck is 15 years, depending on the type of vehicle and the location of its home station. The total life-cycle cost of the unit is driven by both its age and usage, which also determines the units’ pre-set preventative maintenance schedules.  Following major fire incidents, trucks are inspected and assessed for repairs or adjustments.

“From a fleet perspective, running a fire fleet is very similar to running other pieces of large and/or complex equipment such as snowplows, ambulances, cranes, graders, backhoes, etc,” says Ayotte. “In general, the same processes are followed for acquisitions, maintenance and disposal, however the main difference is in the specification of the equipment. The larger or more complex the equipment, the more time and care that needs to be taken when writing the specifications and when monitoring the manufacturing of the equipment.”

Due to their role in the safety of fire personnel and the public, the fire trucks are maintained to very high standards. In addition, because fire prevention and safety are an important aspect of the OFS’ mandate, the fire trucks consistently appear in parades, special events and meet-and-greets at the firehouses and other locations.

Ottawa Fire Services requires a very diverse fleet. In addition to fire calls, OFS responds to a multitude of other incidents such as car accidents, medical calls, carbon monoxide alarms, hazardous materials issues, confined space and trench rescues, structural collapse, water and ice rescues, as well as falls. In addition, they also take responsibility for fire prevention, public education and emergency preparedness programs.

OFS’s full time firefighters all hold and maintain at least a full DZ (Ontario) or equivalent.

“Many recruits have experience operating large vehicles from previous occupations and only require familiarization with the different vehicle configuration while others complete driver training programs offered by various truck driver training organizations,” says Ayotte. “Operating a fire truck is comparable to driving any single large vehicle over 11,000 kg equipped with air brakes.”

Before operating any equipment or apparatus, including the fire trucks, employees receive theoretical and practical training. A driving course gives all firefighters the opportunity to enhance their driving skills. New firefighters practice a variety of driving exercises in their first year. During that time they do not perform any response driving to calls. Refresher driver training courses typically cover topics such as new technology, proper inspections and safe operating practices.

Of the 1,524 staff members, 92 percent are firefighters, serving 935,000 residents across 2,796 square kilometers. They rely on a fleet of 266 vehicles—109 fire trucks, with an assortment of cars, pickups, vans, trailers and other vehicle types.