Mobile unit makes pump testing easier, more convenient

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Among the most important pieces of any firefighting apparatus are the pumps.

Whether they’re designed to discharge water or foam, the idea that a pump may not work properly at the scene of an emergency is a nightmare scenario for firefighters. 

The National Fire Protection Association as well as Insurance Service Office (ISO) guidelines recommend that pumps be tested and serviced annually by certified technicians. Departments are required to keep a log of those tests.

Golden State Fire Apparatus makes it easy to keep pumps in tip-top condition

Not only does GSFA have three certified technicians on staff in Sacramento, for the past five years the company also has offered a convenient mobile service option. Golden State will send one of its trained professionals to any department in Central and Northern California – sharply reducing the down time associated with pump testing.

About half of GSFA’s customers take advantage of the mobile service, said Operations Manager Jason Dinkel. Appointments can be scheduled a few weeks in advance. Typically, many departments test multiple vehicles in their fleet at the same time. The tests themselves take about an hour per vehicle. Set up – which involves preparing a large portable tank that holds up to 4,000 gallons of water – is about another hour.

Multiple tests are performed on each vehicle, depending upon the kind of pump it has. There is a dry vac test that checks for leaks and drafting capability, tank to pump valve test, a capacity test (for pumps with abilities from 500 gallons per minute and higher), an overload test, and tests at 75% and 50% of capacity.

All the water is recycled from the portable tank through the apparatus and back during the test. In some cases, necessary repairs can be made on the spot because Golden State’s mobile unit is stocked with key parts, said lead mechanic Floyd Searle. Other times, that’s unrealistic – “especially if we’re doing five or six tests back to back,” he said. In that situation, the vehicle must be taken to GSFA’s state-of-the-art maintenance facility in Sacramento.

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Golden State’s mechanics are trained to work on all the most popular single-stage and two-stage pumps — Hale, Darley, Waterous, PUC (Pierce Ultimate Configuration). The most common problems with pumps often involve the valves, mechanical seals and packing, Searle said. Leaks can occur in the tank to pump valve, the pump fill valve and LDH large-diameter discharge valves, he said.

Water quality can affect a pump’s performance. So can debris that can clog lines, especially in wildland situations where firefighters are drawing water from ponds, lakes or rivers. Even before testing, there can be signs that pumps aren’t working as efficiently as intended, Searle said. Pump operators should routinely check the RPMs; pumps that are working harder will run higher than normal.

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Fire departments also are strongly encouraged to stay on top of routine maintenance they should be doing, Searle said. That includes operating the pump properly and flushing it out daily, and discharging the relief valve at least once a week. All those procedures are spelled out in the owner’s manual.

“If you take care of the pump, it can last the life of the vehicle,” Searle said.

Added fire mechanic Drew Frazelle: “The single most important thing firefighting crews can do to prevent costly repairs to their pumps is to operate them and exercise the valves regularly. Valves that don’t get exercised can very difficult to open or seize all together.”

Routine maintenance also includes checking the auxiliary pumps included on many vehicles. Those smaller pumps typically run at 500 GPM or less.

Dinkel said it’s important that operators are familiar with their pumps, how they work and how to recognize early warning signs because almost all pumps are “customized and configured” based on a department’s needs.

Frazelle said Pierce offers regional training opportunities multiple times a year to help operators become more comfortable and confident with their vehicles. The next one, which he will attend, is scheduled Sept. 9-13 in Las Vegas. Golden State also is poised to expand its own pump-testing capabilities. Before the end of the year, it will be able to work with pumps with volumes up to 2,000 GPM, further cementing its reputation as the leading service destination in Northern California for firefighting apparatus.

You can reach Golden State at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com.

Fire Truck Face-Off combines fun, competition and a good cause

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The NCAA basketball tournament – commonly referred to as March Madness by millions of fans – captures the attention of much of the country each spring as college teams compete to see who will be crowned the national champion. It’s compelling, it’s dramatic and it’s fun. Even non-fans are drawn in, often filling out their own brackets in an effort to predict the ultimate winner. Borrowing a page from the NCAA, Golden State Fire Apparatus hosted its own online competition in March, called Fire Truck Face-Off. It was formatted similarly to March Madness, with 16 Northern California fire agencies divided into four regional brackets.

Each agency was represented by a piece of fire apparatus it had purchased from GSFA. People then went to the GSFA Facebook page to vote for their favorites in head-to-head contests. Each day featured a different matchup – a pumper from Vacaville against a rescue vehicle from American Canyon, a tiller from the city of Merced against a similar vehicle from Tracy, a PUC pumper from El Dorado Hills against an aerial from Sacramento Metro.

Departments were encouraged to do whatever they could to drum up support. Many leveraged the reach of their own social media sites to encourage voters. Some attracted regional media attention, including a report on Merced’s efforts from the ABC affiliate in Fresno.

As the weeks went by, interest intensified – firing up the competitive spirit of the departments that continued to win.

“I’ve never used social media so much in my life,” said Merced Captain Dewayne Young. “We saw results in real time. We were constantly monitoring how the vote was going.”

Though it was one of the smaller departments in the contest, Merced went all out. It created a video that it posted on its own Facebook page highlighting its tiller as well as the community, and encouraging followers to vote. A fire official appeared on a morning TV show. The Face-Off became a citywide event. It worked. Merced made it all the way to the finals, where its tiller faced off against Vacaville’s pumper.

 Ultimately, nearly 24,000 votes were cast. 

GSFA’s Facebook page saw traffic, comments and page “likes” skyrocket. More than 330,000 Facebook users were reached during the month – an extraordinary number.

“Metrics only tell part of the story,” said Golden State President Ryan Wright. “I think of the overriding principles: the friendly spirited competition of the fire service and the good cause that it would benefit.

“Everyone’s so serious about marketing their business and products. There’s a time and place to have some fun. … We’re all sports fans and the NCAA Tournament is one of the most intriguing things to watch. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, or know anything about basketball, everyone enjoys the drama.”

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Young, a 20-year veteran in the Merced department, said it was gratifying to see much of the community rally to the cause.

“Our members asked their friends and family to help,” he said. “It didn’t take much convincing. You could just see a rise in morale around vote time. … It was all about having fun, but each week it was getting a little more tense. Every time we went to a new round, we would blast it out on our social media. We found that people were just waiting for it to happen.”

Beyond bragging rights for the Merced Fire Department, the biggest winner was the Merced County Special Olympics, which received a check for $1,750 on June 12.

That reflected a $500 contribution from GSFA, which was matched by the Merced Firefighters Association as well as donations from a Merced real estate company, a local car dealership and another labor group.

“To be honest, we really didn’t know what we were getting into,” Young said. “But it was a great experience. It not only spotlighted our apparatus that the city paid for, but our department, our city and, of course, Special Olympics.”

This year actually was the second Fire Truck Face-Off, which debuted in 2013 as the brainchild of GSFA Operations Manager Jason Dinkel. He represented GSFA at the check presentation in Merced.

“My inspiration was to create a fun event that featured some beautiful apparatus and to highlight the many equipment configurations,” he said. “I also wanted to engage our market and to drive interest in our social media page.  … Also, with my athletic background, everything is a competition, right? Why not put them in a tournament?”

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MHD Group, a Modesto-based branding, marketing and advertising agency, helped take Dinkel’s vision to the next level this year.

“MHD really put a professional look and feel to this effort,” he said. “We’re super pleased this has received the response it has.”

“People were highly engaged and there were many close contests,” said Josh Park, MHD Group’s marketing strategist. “Especially when the vote was evenly split, firefighters and their families were going to the GSFA Facebook page to vote and tag their friends. They really wanted to rally anyone and everyone they could to help their local fire company win. … To us, it proved just how energetic and dedicated Golden State Fire’s customers really are.”

Wright said the feedback has been “tremendous.”

“Our customers really enjoyed it,” he said. “Some wanted to know how they could be involved, so we’re currently developing criteria for next year’s competition. … At end of the day, it’s nice to have our name on Facebook and extend our brand, but it’s nice to have our customers enjoy themselves and get some recognition.”

You can reach Golden State at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com.

Pre-construction meeting critical during ordering process

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Golden State Fire Apparatus prides itself on customer service.

It is part of what has made the Sacramento company the go-to destination for fire departments throughout Northern California.

The philosophy is layered throughout every level of the GSFA organization – from sales to service – but there is no better example than what is known as the “pre-construction meeting.” It is an essential part of ensuring each customer receives exactly the right fire apparatus that it needs to fulfill its mission. It is the final step before engineering and production begin.

The meeting happens a month or more after a customer has placed an order. It can take place at GSFA’s headquarters in Sacramento or the customer’s home city, but most often is held at the Pierce Manufacturing factory in Appleton, Wisc.

Typically, a fire department will send its chief or designee, a captain, an engineer, a firefighter and, sometimes, a mechanic or fleet engineer. Representing Golden State is the sales representative assigned to that customer.

The purpose of the meeting, explained GSFA sales manager David Klockzien, is to go over every detail of the apparatus before construction begins. Since almost all pieces of apparatus Golden State sells are customized based on the buyer’s specifications and needs, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.

Clients are asked to bring a variety of things to the meeting:

  • Photos of upgrades or features on other apparatus they may want to incorporate on their own equipment

  • A list of tools that will be stored on the new vehicle, including height, length, width and weight

  • Details about their radio and electronic needs

  • Precise painting and striping details

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Klockzien also advises customers to bring one more thing – an open mind.

In many cases, the pre-construction meeting is a chance to see firsthand what has changed since the last time a department placed an order.

“Because most vehicles are replaced every 10 to 20 years, the pre-construction meeting allows department members to see new technology, designs and possibly use the technology to see if it provides improvements to their vehicle or operations,” he said. “The meeting helps the customer to see what others are doing. It’s easier to convince them when they see it, especially with upgrades or new features.”

The Wisconsin meeting often lasts one or two days, Klockzien said, and sometimes includes a tour of Pierce’s factory if customers haven’t been there before. During the meeting, drawings of the type of apparatus being ordered are shown on a screen. The group will go over in detail each aspect of the apparatus from front to back. Any questions the customer has are addressed. No item is too small. If necessary, Pierce body, plumbing, electrical or mechanical engineers will join the conversation.

 “Basically, it’s getting them to sign off 100 percent because it’s custom-built,” Klockzien explained. “Almost every department has a certain way it wants to do things. Most departments try to keep vehicles as similar as possible, especially in the cab.”

One of the main goals of the pre-construction meeting is to avoid change orders after fabrication has begun, which can be costly and delay delivery of the vehicle.

Each department’s sales representative maintains regular contact with clients during construction. And photos of the vehicles as it’s being built are posted regularly on the GSFA website under the “in production” pulldown, allowing customers to see the status of their vehicle.

Klockzien said some customers choose to make a return trip to Wisconsin for a review meeting midway through the building process, about the time the body and chassis are combined into one piece. The second meeting helps them visualize specific spaces and make better decisions about how to configure them.

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The exceptions to the face-to-face pre- and mid-construction meetings, Klockzien said, often are larger departments that purchase the same vehicles year after year. In those cases, meetings can be held over phone or via web conference.

No matter the situation, providing first-rate service that assures customers that they will receive exactly the vehicle they ordered is the goal. It’s a promise Golden State delivers on, again and again.

You can reach Golden State at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com.

Proper mounting of loose equipment critical for firefighters

Every second is precious at a fire scene. The last thing any firefighter wants to have happen when arriving on site is to open a compartment and struggle to get a critical piece of equipment.

Fortunately, the professionals at Golden State Fire Apparatus in Sacramento – the region’s exclusive dealer for Pierce Manufacturing – make it easy to customize and organize everything fire crews need to carry with them on their trucks.

George Juelch is GSFA’s loose equipment technician. He’s the guy each customer will deal with from start to finish when deciding how to arrange, mount and safely stow their gear.

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Juelch brings decades of hands-on firefighting experience to his current job. He served for 33 years in the Lodi Fire Department, 14 of them as a battalion chief. He appreciates firefighters’ needs because he’s been there himself.

“George has a lot of credibility,” said Jason Dinkel, GSFA’s operations manager. “He understands why things go where they go and the importance of space, and that guys are going to have gloves on. George gets it. … He brings a lot of experience to his work.”

Typically, the process starts with a “pre-construction” meeting between Juelch and officials from a department before they take possession of a new vehicle. Juelch encourages customers to bring all the  loose items they would like to have on the vehicle – axes, crowbars, extraction equipment, radios, flashlights.

In addition to mounting equipment, Golden State also can add USB ports, 12-volt power outlets and charging stations in the cab or other parts of a vehicle for thermal imaging cameras, radios and flashlights.

The consultations can last a couple of hours to as much as a full day. Juelch will show photos of how he has arranged equipment on other vehicles, but each interaction is different because every agency has its own specific needs. He listens, takes notes and imagines the people relying upon his solutions.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing equipment.

“Each department has their own tool layout. You don’t find two departments that do it the same,” Juelch said. “Most of the time, it’s a blank canvas. … It’s important that things are mounted. When you open a door, you don’t want tools falling at your feet.”

Battalion Chief Dave Ennes of the San Jose Fire Department said the consultation with Juelch was invaluable.

“We had a vision of how we wanted the tools and equipment mounted on the truck,” he said. “We met with George and played out how we envisioned the layout. George provided valuable and unique ideas on how we could accomplish our goal of making our tools and equipment easily accessible and yet maximize the space in each compartment. George’s prior experience in the fire service made it very easy for him to understand what we were trying to accomplish.”

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After the meeting, Juelch comes up with an estimate for how long work will take and how much it will cost. The time can vary from a week to up to three, depending on how many modifications are needed and whether Juelch needs to fabricate anything for the project. Some departments add only a handful of brackets or mounts; another had 37 specific things that needed to happen.

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No matter the scope, Juelch maintains close contact with the customer via phone or emails that sometimes include photos.

“George has worked closely with us and has come up with creative ideas in mounting and placing equipment to help increase our operational readiness,” said Sacramento Fire Department Capt. Steve Mayer. “He treats our equipment like it was his own, paying attention to all the details. Many of the Golden State staff members have experience in the fire service, which helps when collaborating about ideas.”

A spokesman for the Visalia Fire Department complimented Golden State for its mounting of our various tools and equipment for its last Arrow XT 105HD Quint, including the Hurst Extrication equipment.

“We found the process to be quite professional, personal, and timely for the quality and quantity of work provided,” the spokesman said. “George was awesome to work with, and his high attention to detail, as well as innovative fabricating abilities, provided us with an end product that we are very confident will serve our community for many years.”

As a former firefighter, Juelch tries to anticipate a crew’s needs.

For instance, he recommends placing the heaviest equipment down low and at the front of pullout shelves for easier access. Tool boards include space for mounting on both sides. He likes to “back nut” fasteners and cover them with caps. He rounds off and buffs all bracket corners to eliminate sharp edges in order to reduce the chance of gloves or coats snagging anything or anyone cutting their hands.

PAC, Kochek and Zico mounts for tools and equipment are stocked on site, but GSFA will customize anything within reason to meet a customer’s needs. Juelch also builds things to last, knowing the tough conditions firefighters and their equipment will face.

“A lot of equipment is so heavy that if you don’t use the right fastener, because of the movement of the engine or weight of the piece, it can move,” Juelch explained. “Firefighters are not real delicate with things.”

It’s GSFA’s acute attention to the smallest of details involving space management and mounting that most impresses their customers.

“George remained in constant contact with us through phone calls, emails and texts to ensure that the project was completed exactly how we had discussed,” said Ennes. “The end result was outstanding and our truck company that received the TDA is thrilled. We look forward to working with George on our next TDA, two USAR and HazMat apparatus that will be arriving soon.”

Are you efficiently maximizing all the space on your fire apparatus?

Do you have questions about how to mount or place a new piece of equipment? Give the pros at Golden State a call at (916) 330-1638 or email them at info@goldenstatefire.com to see how they can help.

Leases add flexibility, affordability to fire vehicle financing

Leasing has become an ever more popular way for many fire departments and public agencies to finance expensive pieces of emergency equipment.

About 20% of the Pierce vehicles purchased at Golden State Fire Apparatus in Sacramento are purchased via leases … and the number is rising each year.

The first, Wong said, is that leasing allows the acquiring agency to save cash. Rather than paying for the fire apparatus in one lump sum, leasing allows the agency to spread the acquisition cost over a period of time. The interest rates for these lease financings currently average between 2.8% and 4%, making them very affordable.

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For borrowers with solid credit, lease contracts often can be approved in as few as 72 hours, Wong said. That’s a major difference from a public agency having to generate money by issuing a bond, which requires voter approval, can take up to six months to organize and typically is more appropriate for projects of $10 million or more.

“Leasing has been very popular with fire apparatus because it’s too large to pay cash, but not enough to access the bond market,” Wong said of a typical transaction, which can run several hundred thousand dollars per vehicle.

Lease terms often are seven to 10 years and can be as long as 15, Wong said. They can be structured so that payments fit within an agency’s budget.

An important feature of these leases, Wong explained, is what is known as a “non-appropriation” clause. This essentially allows the agency covered by the lease to walk away from the vehicle – essentially turning it back to the bank – if for some reason the governing board can’t appropriate funds during the term of the lease. Because of this feature, these leases are not classified as long-term debt.

By far the most popular arrangement, Wong said, is what is known as a “municipal lease” or “lease-purchase” contract. It allows the agency to accrue an ownership interest in the vehicle as payments are made.

“It is a fully amortizing instrument,” Wong explained. “They make the payments and then they own it.”

 

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Pierce – through its network of 28 dealers nationwide and PNC Bank – also offers a variation of municipal lease known as a “turn-in lease.” This type of lease allows for the lowest possible payments during the term with a balloon payment at the end. Basically, if buyers commit to replacing their leased Pierce vehicle with another one, Pierce and PNC will guarantee the resale value of the leased apparatus will be equal to the balloon payment owed at the end of the lease term.

This product gives an agency plenty of flexibility. It can own the apparatus at the end of the term by paying or refinancing the balloon amount, or it can turn in the apparatus for new equipment without the need to worry about reselling the old apparatus.

“A lot of departments do that to replace vehicles, say on a seven-year cycle, so they can get a new product on a regular basis,” Wong said. “This product has been quite popular as it eliminates the downside risk for a department while giving it more flexibility in the future.”

Leasing also allows agencies to affordably add more vehicles at once. Rather than investing a huge chunk of cash on one piece of equipment, they can lease multiple vehicles with one lower, consistent and consolidated lease payment. Locking in terms today avoids annual price increases of about 3% per vehicle, Wong said, and means more vehicles are still under manufacturer warranty, reducing potential maintenance costs.

The advantage to PNC, Wong explained, is that income from the leases is tax-exempt, allowing it to keep interest rates low.

 About GSFA and Pierce:

Pierce is a leader in its industry in making financing available to its customers. Hundreds of them have taken advantage of these special financing arrangements to meet their apparatus needs over the past three decades.

“We’ve been the exclusive provider of customer financing for Pierce going on 30 years,” Wong said. “It’s a very popular program. The people at Golden State have helped many of their clients acquire apparatus using this program and know exactly what to do if a customer has questions.”

You can reach Golden State at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com.

When accidents happen, GSFA body shop answers the call

When a fire truck has been damaged while in service or by accident, there are a few important questions operators often ask.

Who can fix it and how long will it take? And, is there anyone who can help me navigate the complicated insurance process?
In each case, the answer is … Golden State Fire Apparatus, the exclusive Pierce dealer in California from Bakersfield to the Oregon border.

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Currently, GSFA is working on an elevated waterway pumper that partially caught fire last fall.

“We’re redoing all the wiring and some of the plumbing,” said Service Manager Rick Tracy. The pumper has been in the shop for two months and it probably will be March before it’s ready to return to duty.

Also in the shop now is a truck with cracks in the cab compartment. GSFA spent four months fixing a truck that hit a tree. It just finished another truck that sideswiped a tree, peeling back much of the skin on one side.

“That took about almost a year,” Tracy said. “We had to take the whole body apart.”

GSFA has onsite fabrication capabilities – a key distinction separating it from the competition.

“Body compartments, shelving, some of the tread plating, welding — we do a lot of that here,” said Jason Dinkel, Golden State’s operations manager. “We can put it all together, straighten it, whatever is needed. We do a lot of front-end collisions.”

Photos and short updates are emailed weekly to keep clients fully informed about the status of repairs.

In severe cases — bent frames, damage to aerial equipment or when major rewiring is needed – Golden State will send the unit back to the Pierce refurbishment center in Wisconsin. Even in those situations, Tracy and his team act as a liaison between the operator and Pierce, providing regular updates and progress reports.

No one anticipates an accident, of course. Some happen in the course of driving to emergency calls; others occur in the field when trees, buildings or other objects come in contact with the vehicle or it’s damaged by the fire itself.

No matter the circumstance, Tracy recommends that customers call GSFA as soon as they can so damage can be assessed and the repair process can begin. He has a one-page form from Pierce that he asks the operator to fill out.

“Because it’s an emergency piece of equipment, it’s important that we represent the scenario – accident, failure of equipment, operator error — whatever happened,” Dinkel explained.

Pictures also help Golden State and Pierce technicians evaluate the damage. In some cases, Tracy has driven to fire departments to inspect the equipment himself.

“One of the first things we determine is whether we can do the work ourselves or we need to send it to the Pierce refurbishment center,” said Tracy. “We had a tiller last year where a lady hit it driving 45 mph. She never slowed down. Because the frame was bent, we had to send it to Wisconsin.”

One of the most important aspects of contacting GSFA early is that it allows Tracy to immediately begin working on behalf of the client with insurance companies.

“That can be a spot where it can become a big bottleneck,” Dinkel said. “Rick has working relationships with all the major adjusters in our area. He can help provide service to the customer and take some pressure off of them. … He takes over and represents them to the insurance company.”

 About GFSA:

Our trained staff of Emergency Vehicle Technicians work out of our 35,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Sacramento. We continually invest in tools and equipment so that your emergency vehicle receives the utmost care, while reducing the man-hours required to get the job done right. If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, we’re here to help. You can reach us at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

Command Zone Operation

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Command Zone system keeps operators informed

One of the great options Pierce Manufacturing can include with its fire apparatus is called Command Zone. The system offers expanded capabilities to benefit the driver, officer and maintenance teams – and features technologies such as integrated GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity to enhance performance.

In this blog, we’re going to focus on some of the important maintenance-related aspects of the Command Zone platform. In our business, we refer to the information as “prognostics,” which essentially is an early warning system for the equipment operator that some part of the system or a component should be checked.

The Command Zone system analyzes real-time performance and operating conditions to predict maintenance needs.

For instance, oil has an expected lifespan in a given component such as an engine. A standard maintenance interval is set to change the oil based on that expected lifespan. However, certain factors such as overheating the oil will degrade or break down the oil, which results in a shorter lifespan. The prognostics software applies algorithms to the real time operating characteristics against the normal expected lifespan of the oil. The remaining useful life of the oil is then adjusted. 

The beauty of Pierce’s Command Zone platform is that operators or service technicians can run and view diagnostic codes and troubleshooting procedures from the full-color touchscreen display, or on a tablet using a Wi-Fi, cell or USB interface.

Some of the data is related to hours of usage or miles driven – parameters that can be managed and changed by operators to fit their own unique circumstances of how they use the apparatus.

The system records the data so there is a history of each vehicle’s fault codes, warnings and cautions. The readouts and notifications are easy to review and understand. And if operators have a question, all they have to do is send an email to info@goldenstatefire.com or call us at (916) 330-1638. Our certified technicians can walk them through the steps or send information that allows them to address the problem.

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The end result is faster diagnostics and increased vehicle uptime.

“If it’s metered and read and tracked, it’s going to give them a prognostics reminder,” explained Jason Dinkel, operations manager for Golden State Fire Apparatus, the exclusive Pierce dealer in California from Bakersfield to the Oregon border.

The notices operators see often are related to basic service guidelines that can be easy to overlook when apparatus is frequently in use.

“Lubing the suspension, lubing the cab, servicing the engine, drive train … lots of things,” said Rick Tracy, GSFA’s service manager.

“We get calls a few times a week about what operators are seeing,” he said. “We have procedures downloaded that we send to them. They can casually install them at their own pace, unless it’s something that we need to do for them.”

Dinkel said operators should know that Pierce developed the Command Zone system with input from firefighters across the country. The features and information are the direct result of that important feedback.

“The more they run it or the more they drive it, the more it lets them know,” he said. “Also, the system is so comprehensive that it can be customized to any level.”

Pierce prides itself of building the “most reliable, configurable and usable electrical systems,” according to its website.

Tracy encouraged users to be comfortable and confident with all that the Command Zone system has to offer. 

About GSFA:

Our trained staff of Emergency Vehicle Technicians works out of our 35,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Sacramento. We continually invest in tools and equipment so that your emergency vehicle receives the utmost care, while reducing the man-hours required to get the job done right. If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, we’re here to help. You can reach us at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

Training a wise investment in fire mechanics and vehicles

Fire trucks are complicated and expensive pieces of machinery. It’s critical that the professionals who rely on them and service them understand how they operate to keep them in peak shape. Lives, literally, could be at risk if they aren’t.

Training, therefore, becomes essential.

In California, the Northern California Fire Mechanics Academy conducts free training sessions six times a year. In August, Golden State Fire Apparatus in Sacramento served as the host. More than 100 mechanics and firefighters from Bakersfield to the Oregon border and northern Nevada attended the all-day session.

“We know that your team’s performance is mission-critical,” said Jason Dinkel, Golden State’s operations manager. “That’s why we advocate for training and education that allows your team to operate and maintain your fleet to the highest standards in the industry.”

GSFA’s factory-trained technicians led the training in August, which focused on the Command Zone 3 computer system as well as the Husky foam system.

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“It was a combination of lectures and hands-on training,” said Rick Tracy, GSFA’s service manager. “We had breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon. There were a lot of good questions asked.”

The focus varies at each NCFMA gathering, but Tracy said GSFA switches topics each year. “We keep to things that are fire apparatus-related and specific to technicians and mechanics.”

Pierce Manufacturing – which builds the apparatus sold by Golden State – offers extensive training throughout the year at its plant in Appleton, Wisc. In September, it also hosted a weeklong seminar in Las Vegas on all aspects of its equipment.

Pierce’s website features free training videos and lessons. To access them, go to http://www.pierceparts.com/. Log on as guest (lower left in RED), then click on “Learning Modules” or “Training Manuals” to access items related to body and chassis, pumps and how to apply foam.

In addition, when there is enough regional interest, Pierce representatives will come to California to provide training, as it has done twice in the past few years in Chico.

“We want to encourage others to go to what the NCFMA offers as well as what Pierce does,” Dinkel said. “Working with us, there are a lot of resources for training. It is a very good investment in your mechanics to help them take care of your vehicles.”

 

If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, Golden State wants to help. Reach them at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

Fall is the time to make sure fire service vehicles are checked

For most of the summer, it has felt like California has been burning.

Six firefighters and one fire equipment mechanic have lost their lives. Thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed. The Mendocino Complex Fire – the largest in the state’s history – already has charred nearly 500,000 acres … and it’s not out yet. Altogether, more than 1 million acres have burned from one end of the state to the other.

With the wildfire season as bad as it’s ever been in California, it should come as no surprise that the ground-based vehicles used to fight them have been stressed under the most extreme conditions.

All of which puts a premium on the annual inspections performed by the experts at Golden State Fire Apparatus. Identifying and fixing small problems before they grow into larger – and more expensive – ones enables firefighters to count on their equipment when they need it most.

The importance of preventative maintenance was illustrated by one recent case.

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A truck was brought in after battling a wildland fire. Its owners complained of a noise in the 1,500-gpm pump transmission.

“We pulled the drain plug and the only thing that came out was water and oil,” said Rick Tracy, GSFA’s service manager. “We expected metal debris like a failed bearing.”

Instead, in what Tracy described as a “catastrophic failure,” his technicians discovered the slinger ring was gone – something the owners themselves could have seen had they followed standard maintenance recommendations. The contaminated oil also should have been a tipoff, Tracy said.

The difference in not spotting the problem in the field and bringing the vehicle in sooner? At least $10,000 in additional costs to bring the truck and its pump back into service.

This is an extreme case, Tracy said, but one that should provide a cautionary example to other users whose vehicles have been put to the test this summer.

“One of the biggest things we find is after they’ve been out in wildland fire and had to pump out of a creek is they get junk in the pump,” Tracy said. “We’ll do a test. Then you know what you have. We find rocks and pine cones.”

Fall and winter are prime time for regular maintenance inspections and servicing, especially for vehicles involved in battling summer blazes.

“We check valves. We do a pump test. We look at the chassis and running gear. We do a full-service oil change. Basically, we inspect the vehicle from one end to the other,” said Tracy. “If there are any issues, we get them fixed.”

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A full inspection can take anywhere from eight to 20 hours, Tracy explained. GSFA has a service crew of nine in its 35,000-square-foot facility in Sacramento. At any time, as many as 20 pieces of apparatus are in the shop – which is why scheduling an appointment is critical.

“It’s imperative,” Tracy said. “We understand that it’s hard to release equipment in the summer, which is why we always kick it up a notch in the winter time.”

Depending on what the inspection reveals, it could take two to three weeks before the truck is operational again.

Most trucks, if regularly inspected and maintained, will last 10 to 20 years. Given their cost and importance to public safety, taking care of that investment is the right thing to do.

There is another financial reason that also is important. The Insurance Service Office (ISO) compiles ratings for cities and counties. Performing and documenting not just annual checkups but regular maintenance on fire vehicles helps to keep insurance rates down.

If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, Golden State wants to help. Reach them at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

Golden State’s modifications add value to vehicles

Customizing a fire truck is more common than many people might think. Roughly half the emergency vehicles sold each month by Golden State Fire Apparatus have had modifications made at the company’s 35,000-square-foot shop in Sacramento.

“There are lots of things we do here after the rig is delivered,” said Jason Dinkel, GSFA’s operations manager.

Among the most popular modifications are improvements to specific compartments, secure mounting of tools like axes or the Jaws of Life, and upgrades to radio systems.

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Customization is the final part of a process that often takes up to 18 months. GSFA experts work closely with customers to learn how vehicles are expected to be used and what add-ons will make them even more efficient. They discuss what options make the most sense, Dinkel explained, and often travel together to the Pierce Manufacturing factory in Appleton, Wis., to meet with the company that builds the truck.

Members of the Southern Marin Fire Protection District made that trip earlier this year. They are part of a Joint Powers Authority known as Southern Marin Emergency Medical Paramedic System, or SMEMPS. It ordered a one-of-a-kind rescue vehicle to serve a chunk of rugged headlands and small towns with more than 60,000 people just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The vehicle, known as Rescue 9, is a heavy-duty apparatus built on an Arrow XT chassis. It is built to safely maneuver in the narrow and challenging topography from sea level to the 2,500-foot peak of Mount Tamalpais.

Capt. Mike Martinez of the fire district said Rescue 9 is “designed to access a variety of rural and residential areas and operate as the rescue company in all disciplines of service including ALS EMS, rope rescue, extrication, confined space, water rescue, dive rescue and fire ground operations.”

When it comes on service in September, it will replace a worn and aging 2003 Pierce Dash rescue.

Martinez was part of a committee that assessed the agency’s needs for the vehicle. The members wanted to increase storage while minimizing the effects of an overall size increase. To achieve that, Martinez said, they customized Rescue 9 with the Oshkosh Tak-4 T3 rear independent suspension that provides mechanical rear steering for reduced steering radius.

Working with Golden State, he said, has been a rewarding process.

“Golden State Fire Apparatus was an advocate for our needs and accommodated our detailed interaction with Pierce Manufacturing,” Martinez said. “A pre-build meeting with a Pierce rescue division engineer allowed us an early conceptual design to begin the process, thus providing us a solid foundation to begin the specification process.

“The finished product will be a welcomed asset to our fleet.  It is certain to provide access to a wide variety of incident responses due to the tight turning radius and adequate engine performance, providing a crew capacity and equipment storage that will fit the needs of the organization for many years to come.”

Before Rescue 9 is put into service, it will have a 250-item pre-delivery inspection, or PDI, that every vehicle (modified or not) undergoes before its owner takes delivery, Dinkel said.

“It’s stem to stern, completely comprehensive,” Dinkel explained. “It’s the Rolls-Royce inspection for fire trucks. We test everything.”

Golden State has three full-time employees devoted to customizing fire and rescue vehicles in whatever way their customers need to have happen.

If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, Golden State wants to help. Reach them at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

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