The city of Upper Arlington, OH, is fortunate to have an emergency services department that understands the importance of keeping its front-line vehicles in top running condition, as well as having reserve units on hand for backup.
Chris Caito, battalion chief of Upper Arlington's fire/emergency services department, says there's no waste in his department, either in equipment or personnel. The city has three fire stations to cover an approximate 10-sq.-mi. area and employs 60 uniformed firefighters. In addition to providing fire and emergency services for its own city, the department is also on “automatic response” with surrounding departments in North West Franklin County and is part of a seven-fire-department HazMat team. All this keeps them pretty busy.
As far as equipment goes, Caito says: “Our fire trucks include a 95-ft. aerial platform Sutphen 2000 model and a 2002-model Sutphen engine/rescue truck with custom chassis. We refer to the 2002 Sutphen as an engine/rescue truck because it is both a fully NFTA-equipped engine (pumper) truck to fight fires and a rescue truck spec'd with hydraulic tools and other equipment needed for vehicle extrication and emergency rescue.”
In reserve is a 1990 Sutphen custom engine/rescue unit and a 1986 Sutphen engine on a Ford commercial chassis, which is assigned to the department's training division.
Also included in the fleet are two front-line medic units — 2001 and 1998 Horton models on International medium-duty chassis. Two older Horton/International medic trucks are held in reserve as backup vehicles. A 2001 Ford F-350 pickup with utility box serves as a tow vehicle for Hazmat and special operations responsibilities.
The equipment is spec'd by a committee of fire division members who build the trucks from the ground up to suit their application. The 2002 Sutphen, for example, is spec'd with oversize storage compartments on the body for stowing rescue equipment.
“We run four people on a fire/rescue truck — an officer and three firefighters. So when spec'ing a truck, manpower availability also comes into play,” Caito points out. “In the absence of having more people on the truck, we try to equip it with items to make their jobs easier. For instance, on the 2000 and 2002 trucks we've got light towers and big hydraulic generators to run them. An operator can light an entire scene quickly, easily and, most important, safely using this equipment — as opposed to having an extra person out there putting up portable lighting.”
The city's garage performs the bulk of vehicle maintenance. In addition, driver/operators do morning checks and input findings into a computer, using software that also tracks mileage so Caito knows when a truck is due for PM.
For major repairs and other things the fleet maintenance division cannot handle, including suspension, springs and steering work, vehicles are serviced by a local contractor. Specialized work is sent directly to the manufacturer.
“Routine maintenance on the engine/rescue and ladder trucks is done every 2,750 miles and on the medic units every 3,000 miles,” Caito says. “We do our oil changes frequently because of the way our equipment is used. These vehicles are run hard from cold starts and are driven primarily in a city environment. Putting 100,000 miles on the motors of our big trucks easily equates to 400,000 to 500,000 miles on an OTR truck when you take into consideration the added wear and tear and the fact that they can sit for hours working at a scene.”
“Our city garage does an excellent job of preventive maintenance, so we don't see a lot of catastrophic failures. This has really paid off in terms of equipment reliability and safety for the operators. We're also fortunate to have good backup equipment ready to go when we do have to give up one of our front-line vehicles for maintenance,” Caito adds.