GSFA founder remembers his good friend, Dave Boyd

Dave Boyd’s official title at Golden State Fire Apparatus was “new arrivals coordinator.” But his influence was felt in so many more ways.

He was a role model for what a loyal employee should be. A great teammate. A barbecue chef extraordinaire. And, most of all, Boyd was a trusted confidante to the boss.

“He was one of those rare individuals who was just a real man’s man. A real gentleman’s gentleman,” said GSFA founder and CEO Bill Wright about his friend, who died Jan. 30 from COVID-19. “He was a very down to earth, genuine, sincere person. He was very honest and a hard worker. Our society today in America needs a lot more Dave Boyds.”

He was so demanding of himself before he was demanding of others. He was a man of very high standards. Everybody respected that.

Bill Wright, GSFA founder and CEO

Wright and Boyd first met in 1987, when Boyd was still working as the assistant chief in the Salida Fire Department. Golden State sold a Pierce pumper to Salida and it was Boyd who volunteered to go to Wisconsin, inspect the vehicle and then drive it home. It was the first in what would end up being hundreds of one-way journeys Boyd would make delivering trucks from the Pierce manufacturing facility to California.

Even before retiring from the Salida department in 1998, Boyd was already working with Wright’s team at GSFA in his spare time to drive trucks from Wisconsin to Golden State’s headquarters. That relationship continued following his retirement as a firefighter.

“His title was new arrivals coordinator,” Wright said. “When a truck was finished in Wisconsin, he was one of the people who would get an email that it was ready to be picked up. Dave would pack up his bag, get his briefcase and computer, and get on a plane, fly to Minneapolis and then a commuter plane to Appleton.

“He knew every highway to travel on. If it was snowing, he would head to Texas and then to California. And if it was nice, he would go on Highway 80. It took four days… When he arrived back in California, he would inspect the truck again and make sure it was functioning, then contact the customer and have them come to Sacramento. He arranged for a date to deliver the truck to them and then he would arrange another time to do the training with them. Dave was a key individual in our business. A lot revolved around him.”

Dave Boyd airport

Boyd lived in Salida; Wright’s home is in Stockton. Since both were driving almost every day to Sacramento, they decided it made sense to commute together. Soon, a bond was formed that was more than about saving money on gas. The two became very close friends. They found they shared similar interests in airplanes, target shooting and the events of the day. With their wives, they went out to eat on occasion and vacationed together on the coast.

“We had 45 minutes each way to discuss politics or any number of things,” Wright said. “When Dave came on board, I found it very comfortable to talk to him and, little bit by little bit, I would share things with him to see how far I could trust this man. Over the years, he was probably my greatest confidante. I never had to remind him to keep things to himself. He would always respond with, ‘Here is what I think,’ or, ‘What I would do.’ ”

Dave Boyd Barbeque

In one way or another, Boyd interacted with almost all of Golden State’s 42 employees, who universally admired and respected him. One of his most endearing qualities was as the chef overseeing the company’s barbecues every few months. Boyd had a professional grill that he would tow to Sacramento behind his pickup. Often, his wife Phyllis would make pies or other side dishes. Their son Eric – a firefighter in Turlock – also would attend on his days off.

“He took it very seriously,” Wright recalled of Boyd’s culinary skills. “He would use charcoal, but always brought almond wood that was dried to a certain percentage. He was very meticulous about getting the fire going and keeping the grill clean.”

In fact, Boyd was so admired as a cook that he was often asked to serve at various gatherings in the Salida area. Once, he even hauled his barbecue all the way to the Dakotas to cater the wedding of a friend’s daughter.

“Dave would never do anything in a mediocre way,” Wright said. “It had to be done to perfection – whether it was working on a truck or barbecuing. He was so demanding of himself before he was demanding of others. He was a man of very high standards. Everybody respected that.”

Though he was 75 when he died, Wright said that Boyd still liked to work despite having operations to replace both knees and one hip.

“In the last three or four years, he would say, ‘Bill I need to slow down.’ But he never did,” Wright said. “He loved what he was doing. He probably worried about what he would do. He would say, ‘I can’t retire now, Bill. I’ve got trucks coming in for Contra Costa or San Jose.’ It was like these trucks were Dave’s kids and he was going to see that truck through to completion.”

Sadly, after Boyd contracted COVID, Wright was only able to talk to his friend by phone. Phyllis Boyd also came down with the disease. If there is a silver lining, it was that they were able to share a hospital room in Modesto, allowing them to talk and hold hands. She was able to be with him when he died.

“The next day, the most amazing thing happened – she was discharged,” Wright said.

The death of his friend hit Wright hard.

“Until it affects someone you know and love, you don’t realize how devastating this disease is,” he said.

Boyd’s funeral in Salida attracted many admirers – family and friends, members of his church community, GSFA employees and even firefighters throughout Northern California who knew him as the guy who drove their truck from Wisconsin and then trained them on how to use it. To honor Boyd, his casket was taken from the church to the cemetery on a 1934 Mack firetruck owned by the Ripon Fire Department.

“The reverence, the respect … you would have thought some great dignitary was being buried,” Wright said. “I haven’t been to a service like that in my lifetime. It was an honor to be there.”

Wright will remember his friend as a man of few words who had “the heart of a servant and humility of mind.”

“Dave was a very loving, caring gentleman,” Wright remembered. “He was not a critical person. He never talked down to people. I respected him greatly for that. … He was a very strong believer in Jesus Christ and active in his church. He was very respected in his community. Dave always wanted to deflect the credit. He was a man of great integrity and great honesty. He was such a wonderful man. He would do anything to help you.”

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

Two companies with big hearts

One from California, the other from Illinois – provide water to fire victims

The CZU Lightning Complex Fire began late at night on Aug. 16 near Boulder Creek, a quiet little town deep in the redwood forest about 20 miles northeast of Santa Cruz, Calif. By the time it was contained Sept. 22, it had burned 85,509 acres across two counties, destroyed 1,500 structures and damaged 140 more. Tragically, one person was killed.

The fire also knocked out the water system that serves more than 10,000 people who live in the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Stepping in to help to fill that critical need were two companies with limited connection to Boulder Creek, but plenty of heart to be of service.

Golden State Fire Apparatus, based in Sacramento, and W.S. Darley & Co., headquartered in the Chicago suburbs, teamed up to deliver a truckload of desperately needed water Monday morning to the water district. Golden State sells fire and emergency apparatus. Darley makes water pumps, many of which are found on fire apparatus.
Together, Golden State and Darley paid for and arranged a semi-truck loaded with 24 pallets of water – more than 5,000 gallons — to be driven from Dallas to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District office.

The timing was perfect as the water district was almost out of water when the truck arrived.

Ryan Wright, President of Golden State Fire
The donation came about after Wright corresponded with a California Office of Emergency Services representative about how Golden State might help fire victims in hard-hit communities. He was told that the people in and around Boulder Creek needed drinking water. That sparked a conversation Sept. 22 with Paul Darley, President & CEO of W.S. Darley & Co. By Sept. 25, the truck was on its way from Texas.

People are in need of water and we are fortunate to be in a position to help in any way possible to provide this vital resource.

Paul Darley, President & CEO of W.S. Darley & Co.

Holly Hossack, administrative assistant at the water district, said the district lost three water tanks and all of the pipelines leading to and from the water treatment plant. While some water service has been restored, people living in more than 350 homes are on “do not drink, do not boil” orders due to the risk of volatile organic compounds caused by the fire possibly being in the water. That order is expected to last another three weeks, she said.

The district goes through five or more pallets of water per day, Hossack said, with each household allowed two cases of water per day. Before the truck arrived Monday, “We were down to a couple of pallets,” she said.

Tanya Wright, Ryan’s wife and a Golden State employee, was in Boulder Creek with their 17-year-old daughter and a family friend on Monday when the truck arrived and parked in the middle of two-lane Highway 9, right in front of the water district office. Within an hour, the pallets had been offloaded and distribution begun to people patiently waiting in their cars to pick up water.

“People looked tired and worn out, but they were joyful despite what they have faced,” said Wright, who described driving through burned out areas nearby as “heartbreaking.”

“We saw four or five houses that had burned to the ground,” she said. “All that was left were ashes and hot water heaters. And then 100 yards away, there was a house that didn’t get touched. It was really tragic and humbling. It made you really see what these people are going through.”

Unfortunately, with more than 100 wildfires burning all over the Western United States in the past month, the scene near Boulder Creek has been far too common. The need for water and other supplies is acute in many states.

Golden State – carrying on the tradition established by its founders, Bill and Marie Wright – has donated before through the Red Cross and other relief agencies.

Kevin Sofen, Darley’s Business Development Manager, said the Illinois company is eager to work with other organizations that would like to arrange a water donation. Darley has an interest in a business called Box of Rain Water, which provides drinking water after emergencies and also to the military. The water – like what was delivered to Boulder Creek — comes in 2.64-gallon (10-liter) units. Think of boxed wine, just with water inside.

Sofen said interested companies should contact him at (310) 625-6248 or kevinsofen@darley.com.

Pierce, PACCAR team up for first time on new MX-13 engine

Brad Hansen spent 20 years driving fire engines for the Sacramento City Fire Department. In his last six years, he was an Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (EVOC) instructor, teaching proper driving techniques to other firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies. He knows his way around a piece of fire apparatus and appreciates the value of quality equipment.

All of which makes Hansen eminently qualified to evaluate the performance of the new PACCAR MX-13 engine that is now available in Pierce’s Arrow XT, Enforcer and Velocity Custom Chassis trucks. “The MX-13 delivers power in a smooth application with peak torque low in the RPM range,” said Hansen, now a sales consultant for Golden State Fire Apparatus, Central and Northern California’s exclusive dealer for Pierce apparatus.

The MX-13 delivers power in a smooth application with peak torque low in the RPM range

For drivers, low torque translates into great performance from a dead stop. The 510-horsepower MX-13 achieves maximum torque at 1,000 RPMs, improving responsiveness in congested city driving or on windy rural roads. “The fire engineer will feel that torque and power down low, helping him/her with initial off-the-line performance,” Hansen said.

The MX-13 engine incorporates industry-leading design features that improve uptime, optimize fuel economy, reduce maintenance costs and maximize the return on investment for buyers. It also marks the first time PACCAR and Pierce have worked together. “We are bringing together two premium brands, providing a first-class engine for custom fire apparatus,” according to the Pierce website.

The new engine features compacted graphite iron castings that are 75% stronger and 25% lighter than grey iron. High-pressure common rail fuel injection means improved combustion efficiency and better fuel performance. Rear engine gear train design reduces noise and makes for a smooth ride.

Improved bearing clearance, higher strength joints, increased uptime and longer service life PACCAR’s fractured cap technology makes it possible to tune the engine to produce what the company describes as a “wide horsepower range and longer torque and power curves for more efficient operation.” The technology also provides “improved bearing clearance, higher strength joints, increased uptime and longer service life.”

The MX-13 engine also plays an important role in improved braking. “The MX-13, designed and built at PACCAR, uses a complete integrated system utilizing a compression release, the turbocharger and a backpressure valve, which is able to generate continuous braking power,” said Marc Faluotico, the West Regional Vice President for Pierce Manufacturing. “It adds reliable and safe braking power to the vehicle, reducing service brake wear.”

The new engine comes with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Service can be performed at any Kenworth or Peterbilt service center. Golden State’s technicians also are certified to work on the MX-13 engine at the company’s state-of-the-art 35,000-square-foot facility in Sacramento.

About GSFA: Golden State Fire Apparatus has been the exclusive Pierce dealer in Central and Northern California for more than 30 years. Our sales, service and parts professionals are proud to work with many highly respected fire agencies all across our region. We partner with our clients to create custom fire and rescue apparatus built specifically for their needs. You can reach us at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com.

About PACCAR: PACCAR is a global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of premium light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF nameplates. PACCAR also designs and manufactures advanced diesel engines. PACCAR is based in Bellevue, Wash. The MX-13 engine is designed and built in Columbus, Miss.

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.

The Final Match was held on April 2nd, where Hanford emerged victorious

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.

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.

Details in the 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.”

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.”

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.”

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

Mobile unit makes pump testing easier, more convenient

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.

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.

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

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.”

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?”

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

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

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.

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