Hanford earns title in 3rd annual Fire Truck Face-Off

College basketball fans across the country were disappointed this year when the NCAA cancelled the men’s tournament – commonly known as March Madness – because of health concerns related to COVID-19. That wasn’t the case, however, for the 3rd annual Fire Truck Face-Off sponsored by Golden State Fire Apparatus. Not even a pandemic could dim the enthusiasm of Central and Northern California’s firefighters, their families and friends, who voted and participated in record numbers between late February and early April.

“The feedback has all been positive. From the chief officers to firefighters to residents, everyone had a ball with the contest,” said Jason Dinkel, Golden State’s operations manager and the architect of the contest.

Tournament participants were selected back in February

The premise is simple and, just like the NCAA Tournament, there is plenty of drama. In February, Golden State created a ping pong ball for each customer that purchased a vehicle in the previous fiscal year. The name of the purchasing agency and type of vehicle was written on the ball, and then drawn randomly to fill out a 32-vehicle bracket, just like the individual schools in the college basketball playoffs.

Beginning in Feb. 24, people could go to the GSFA Facebook page to vote for their favorites in head-to-head contests. Each day featured a different matchup – a San Jose heavy duty rescue vs. a Rocklin type 1 engine, a wildland engine from Corning vs. a City of Sacramento type 1 engine, a Fortuna platform vs. a Calaveras Consolidated type 3 wildland engine.

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The final match was held on April 2nd, where Hanford emerged victorious

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By early April, the field had been winnowed to two 110-foot ascendant aerial platforms – one from Hanford and the other from Clovis.

The winner? Truck 43 from the Hanford Fire Department. It received 58% of the votes to run away with the title against its regional rival. The two cities are about a 45-minute drive apart. Hanford defeated another nearby department – Tulare – in the semifinals. “A couple of guys who worked here work for Clovis now,” said Hanford Fire Capt. Derek Weisser. “Same with Tulare, which is about 30 minutes away. We all do training together. There were some good conversations had.”

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 media attention, including a report on Fresno television station Channel 24 on three of the four semifinalists being from the same region.

Golden State sales consultant Dewayne Young’s territory includes Hanford, Clovis and Tulare. He offered the three agencies advice about the contest, which was won in 2019 by Merced – where Young also is a fire captain. “All three departments had a lot of support,” he said. “It was pretty phenomenal.”

At first, Weisser said his department of 30 was uncertain about how to proceed. “This was our first Fire Truck Face-Off,” Weisser said. “Dewayne explained it to us. He gave us some pointers and we went for it.” One of the first things Hanford did was create some videos of Truck 43. One showed a Dalmatian dog sitting in the cab; others portrayed the aerial apparatus in action at fire scenes. “We started getting video footage right away,” Weisser explained. “We posted a lot of it between rounds. The video changed a couple of times. We even tried to incorporate the downtown area of Hanford that everyone enjoys. “The city of Hanford is interesting. It’s about 55,000 people and has a pretty strong community base. We knew we had outlets we could tap into. … We shared the contest on our Facebook page and got all our friends and family to share it with their social media groups.”

Fire Truck Face Off was a huge success, bringing in over 50 thousand votes

Dinkel said it’s just that kind of community pride and engagement the Fire Truck Face-Off hopes to inspire. “The departments and communities are very proud of their equipment and where they live and serve,” he said. The response to this year’s contest was impressive – more than 575,000 users reached and in excess of 50,000 votes, 7,600 shares, 3,900 likes and more than 800 comments. Many of those numbers are double from 2019. “Since anyone can see who voted, I have heard of departments actually reaching out to make sure that everyone’s vote has been cast,” Dinkel said. “And, of course, there are a lot of Facebook page shares and comments made to help encourage others to jump on board.”

Hanford’s closest call came in the quarterfinals against an aerial from the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department.  “They gave us a serious run for our money,” Weisser said. “I think it was small-town pride. We were within a few votes of each other. At one point, it was 51 to 49 percent. It was a battle during the entire 24 hours.” Hanford eventually collected 52% of the votes to win, a pattern it repeated twice more to take home the championship.

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Good fun, and a good cause

The victory comes with bragging rights for sure, but more importantly, Golden State donates $1,000 to a nonprofit chosen by the winner. Young generously chipped in $500 out of his own pocket as well. This year, all that money will be sent to the Porterville Fallen Firefighters Fund. Tragically, the Porterville department had two men – Capt. Ray Figueroa and firefighter Patrick Jones — killed in February while battling a blaze at the city library. “Porterville is about an hour east of us in Tulare County,” Weisser said. “We just felt it was right that the money would straight to the families there. We try to do what we can to our brothers and sisters.”

Added Dinkel: “At the end of the day, this is really the most important aspect of this contest. All of the charities selected are worthy of these funds. Our hope is that this dollar amount continues to grow each year. We’re super proud of everyone keeping this the focus and we couldn’t be more pleased with others stepping up to contribute as well.”

Need parts? Golden State has just what you’re looking for

Each piece of equipment sold by Golden State Fire Apparatus is expected to perform under the most rugged and demanding conditions. When lives are on the line and property is at risk, nothing else is acceptable.

Given the circumstances in which vehicles routinely operate, the need for quality maintenance and timely repairs is crucial. Expensive equipment is of no use when it’s not available.

Golden State understands that urgency. That’s why it’s service department and body shop is staffed with trained professionals with decades of experience. The same commitment to customer service is evident in the parts department, which has grown dramatically in the past six years and now occupies more than 4,500 square feet of space over two levels at the company’s headquarters.

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Stock Inventory

Golden State stocks nearly 7,000 individual parts, from valves to pumps to lights, radios, computers and virtually anything else that is found on a piece of fire apparatus. The inventory has grown rapidly in the past few years based on customer feedback and needs. And if a part is not in stock, it can be obtained in less than a week – or even sooner in cases where the vehicle is out of operation, said parts manager David Myers.

GSFA retains the specific schematics and list of parts for every vehicle it sells. It has an ever-growing library of parts descriptions, complete with photographs and more than 33,000 illustrations. The company also created a 1,500-square-foot mezzanine in its parts department devoted entirely to pumps, also in response to what customers said they wanted.

In an average week, Myers and his three-member team deal with 25 to 50 fire departments. Since Golden State sells vehicles all over Northern California, virtually all of that engagement is over the phone or via email.

The Exact Part You Need

Myers welcomes a chance to consult with customers to ensure they’re ordering the exact part they need. Pierce Manufacturing – which builds most of the apparatus sold by Golden State – has a robust website that allows fire departments to see all the parts for their vehicles while on the phone with Myers and his staff. Customers can go to pierceparts.com to access parts information, ID numbers, component catalogs and operator manuals; watch training videos; and research exactly what they need for their equipment.

Best yet, Myers and his staff can log in to Pierce website simultaneously so they can have a real-time phone conversation with the customer about parts.
“They see what we see,” Myers said.

In instances such as those – when the vehicle owners or fleet managers are going to install the new part themselves – Golden State can ship the part within a few days, if it’s in stock. Ordering from Pierce or another supplier typically adds a few days because parts are often coming from the Midwest. But some situations are different. If the vehicle is grounded and cannot safely respond to calls, those parts orders become of priority for Golden State as well as Pierce. Myers and his team will gather the information to verify an “out of service” request before relaying it to Pierce, which moves it to the top of its queue to fill.

“That may happen 10 or 15 times a week, but it goes way up during fire season,” Myers said.

Our Proactive Approach

Another aspect of Golden State’s customer-focused service culture is to stay on top of which parts have been requested – whether they’re sent directly to the client or being delivered to Golden State’s technicians to install.

“Every other week, we go through everything the shop is waiting on and determine why a part isn’t here,” Myers explained. “We are proactive and go through all of our open orders just so the customer is aware of the process and updated about what to expect.”

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Golden State’s parts department is open 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but Myers frequently responds on weekends to questions via text or email. The company also features an online payment portal to make it convenient for customers to process and pay for parts.

Looking to the future, Myers said it’s possible that Golden State will begin to offer promotions or bulk order discounts to reduce the cost of parts. An example might be a deal to upgrade an older piece of equipment from halogen to LED lights, which are standard on many new models. He also expects to do more outreach via Golden State’s social media sites.

“We want to stay out front of whatever trends there are,” Myers said. “We check everything coming down the pipeline. Our sales guys tell me about new features, so we start stocking those parts. We want to stay ahead of the curve as well as get rid of something that isn’t hot today.”

People, service, relationships best define our first 30 years

Golden State Fire Apparatus recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in business with an event at its Sacramento headquarters. Golden State is the No. 1 dealer of firetrucks and rescue vehicles in Northern California. It employs 36 people at its 33,814-square-foot facility, which includes a state-of-the art service department as well as a fully stocked parts department. After Golden State Fire marked its milestone, owner and President Daron Wright reflected on the company’s history, its culture, its key relationships with customers and vendors, and his vision for the future.

What does Golden State Fire’s success in the past 30 years say about its approach to business and its core values?

We believe it says more about our people than it does about any business acumen we possess or market conditions we’ve realized.  This is a very human element business and it takes people to get things done.  At the core of our business are people who want to serve and perform. I also believe that we have a clear understanding of competition and what it means to compete. And, it has nothing to do with our brand competition.

 

How has the company evolved over the past three decades?

We have grown one step at a time, one person at a time and one customer at a time. We have evolved prudently. Many people around us have contributed to the overall growth. Without having that support network, we would not have the opportunities that have been afforded to us.

Wright family celebrating 30 years

Golden State Fire Apparatus owners, left to right, Daron, Marie, Bill and Ryan Wright.

Looking back, what are you most proud of?

The relationships that have been built. The family atmosphere the team has created. We have great relationships with customers, suppliers and support systems alike. To this day, we still are engaged with past customers and employees, and it is truly humbling to be around them and get their perspectives of the right way to do business and how impactful our interactions have been and continue to be. For our younger generation, it is so encouraging for them to be in this atmosphere.

Your business is all about creating partnerships, building trust and maintaining relationships.  Why is that so important when dealing with fire departments and first responders?
Building and maintaining relationships is important in business, but I do not believe it is a business tactic of ours. I believe it is more important to be who you are at the core. Like, do you really care to “serve” these people because that is who you are, or do you care to “serve” because there is a benefit to you? I look to my parents as no greater examples of being who you are. This is what past and present customers have told us. The great thing is that is the only way we know to do business because our leaders have been consistent in demonstrating this and it has permeated the organization and just became the way we conduct business. Are we perfect? Absolutely not and we don’t strive to be. We strive to be who we are. It’s a matter of the heart, in my opinion.

You have some employees who have worked at GSFA for more than 20 years.  How do you create that culture of loyalty?  Why is it important to recruit, hire and invest in training the best people?
We are simple people and we run our organization with one simple principle — treat others the way you would like to be treated. I believe they call that the “Golden Rule.”  We see it exactly opposite as the question being posed. We believe we are the lucky and blessed ones because these people have been so loyal to GSFA. Why are we the lucky ones? The employees have done a great job of building a culture that is almost impenetrable. If we try to implement something new that they are not in agreement with, they will let us know. I love it when that happens because I know the culture is alive. I believe this is what it looks like when it works best. And we have great people in every department within the organization. More family than anything.

Talk about your relationship with Pierce Manufacturing.  Why is Pierce the right partner for Golden State Fire?

I think some of the reasons why Pierce is the right partner for us are obvious (the product, R&D, product support, etc.). The real reason why it is the right partner is because Pierce’s people are yoked or in line with our values and beliefs and the way we conduct business. There are so many examples that I could share to validate my statements. They look out for us and we look out for them. I would consider our Pierce relationship as family. It is not always perfect, nor does either organization always make the right decision, but we are better together and it is a valued partnership. Our consistent relationship spanning 30-plus years has been a benefit to the Central and Northern California market. 

How much of your business is based on referrals or repeat customers?  What does that say about what you do?
Two-thirds of our customer historically own two or more units and are repeat customers.  This would also suggest that one-third of our customers are a one-truck owner(s). To me, it says that we are here to serve. It doesn’t matter if you are the biggest department on the block or the smallest on the block. It doesn’t matter if your budget is abundant or your budget has never allowed you to purchase a brand new fire truck. We are here to serve and all we ask for is an opportunity to stand in front of you, listen to your needs and explain how we intend to handle that interaction for the sale and the life of the truck. It also tells me that when we experience that much repeat business or referral business that we are doing something right.  More importantly, it tells me that we are extremely blessed and we cannot let off the throttle because if we think repeat business is just going to happen because of what past numbers suggest, then that is the moment we have let doubt and defeat in. A lot of it is a mindset. We want to do business with the people that want to do business with us for all the right reasons.  With two-thirds of our business being repeat customers, it also tells me that we go about our business with honesty and integrity. That is what I am most proud of.

How important is customer feedback to your operation?
Extremely. It is not just a step we go through. We engage our team consistently with sit down strategic meetings. When we get the customer feedback (good or bad), we do three things. First, during our strategic meetings with our team, we present the information and go through all new feedback. Second, we send that same feedback out to every employee so they have individual access to it and can review the information on their time. Third, we post it in a public location so everyone (customers and employees) can see the feedback we are getting. Good or bad. The feedback is anonymous and there are times where we are on cloud nine and there are times where we are hanging our heads. Whatever it is, we are going to approach it together as a team and a challenge. No one person is more important than another. And every employee needs to execute their role for the team to be successful. 

What should customers expect in the years ahead?
What I can share is that our leadership is young, energized, experienced, motivated and hungry.  With that being said, we will remain humble in all that we do and build upon the pillars that have gotten us where we are today. We will remember the “Golden Rule” in all that we do. We will have people on our team who want to serve because that is who they are, not what they have to do. We are always looking at ways to make business for the customer more transparent, simplified, accessible and understandable. For us to succeed at that, our people need to be better trained on our products and processes, so we will continue to invest in those areas. And, we need to align with suppliers that see it the same way we do. It is not our goal to be bigger, but to be better. We will compete against ourselves until we reach that goal. This is an industry where people serve people and we will never forget that. 

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

Skeeter apparatus top of the line in wildland environments

Fire danger rises exponentially each year as temperatures soar and conditions dry out in the Northern California mountains or when the hot Santa Ana winds blow off the desert toward the Southern California coast. Lives are endangered, homes and cities are threatened, and the risks increased for every minute that crews can’t get close to a fire scene.

Skeeter Brush Truck

Skeeter Brush Trucks have proven to be an important weapon in firefighters’ arsenal. Engineered to withstand the most rugged conditions, Skeeter trucks allow firefighters to access spaces in wildland situations across California that traditional equipment can’t reach.

“A stock commercial truck cannot get off road to where the fires originate. It has to wait for fire to come to it,” said Bill Davidson, Skeeter’s vice president of sales. “Especially with the Santa Ana winds, you need to get out and knock it down. Our trucks can follow a bulldozer wherever it goes. They can go over a 3-foot hump and not even notice it.”

Though Skeeter has been building trucks at its factory in Hillsboro, Texas, for about a decade, it is still relatively new to the California market. In 2018, during one of the state’s worst wildfire seasons ever, it sent about two dozen vehicles to California. Its exclusive dealer and service operator in the state is Golden State Fire Apparatus in Sacramento.

“Simplicity and price point” is how Golden State President Ryan Wright responds when asked what attracted him to Skeeter. The company has sold 28 Skeeter vehicles since January 2018, including multiple-unit purchases by Sacramento, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Fairfield and San Ramon Valley.

“They’re a tremendous value and they’re well-built trucks.”

– Ryan Wright

Nationally, Davidson said Skeeter controls about 21% of the wildland vehicle market and 80% of high-mobility lifted trucks. Its models also include tenders and rescue trucks. It sells primarily through the Pierce dealer network, which includes GSFA.

“Our parent company (in Houston) is the largest Pierce dealer in the world. We have a good relationship with Pierce,” Davidson said.

Skeeter vehicles are built to operate in the harshest wildland conditions. They feature bigger tires, off-road suspension, armor plating, skid plates, winches, upgraded axles and drive shafts, heavier windshields and tanks that can carry up to 2,000 gallons.

“They’re like a military truck,” Davidson explained. “They perform exceptionally well off-road without sacrificing anything on the highway.”

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Skeeter prides itself on creating durable, affordable and flexible wildland apparatus for departments with any size budget.

That process starts with a preconstruction meeting in Texas so Skeeter’s engineers can learn exactly how the customer intends to use the vehicle.

“We strongly encourage customers to be involved in the design process,” Davidson said. “We specialize in listening to what the customer wants in the truck. It’s not our truck. We’re building it for them.”

Skeeter apparatus can last up to 30 years, with the chassis designed to be replaced at 15 to 20 years.

“Fifty percent of our customers multipurpose our trucks,” Davidson said. “It’s a dedicated wildland truck that works well in other environments – emergency response or floods. We can build the body to suit the needs of any department.”

Wright said word of mouth from current customers is the best referral for Skeeter apparatus.

“I would say interest has definitely grown,” he said.

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

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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Before

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After

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

CONTACT US

If you have a sales or service question, you can give us a call, send us an e-mail or stop by our facility.