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New fire trucks improve fleet’s efficiency
Chief mechanic Matthew Suggs and senior mechanic Jack Tribble refer to a technical manual as they work to get three new fire engines ready for the road. - photo by Jim Dean

FORSYTH COUNTY — The Forsyth County Fire Department added three new engines to its fleet this week, completing a changeover that officials said has been 10 years in the making. 

The additional vehicles mean that all of the department’s manned stations are now equipped with custom designed Pierce Arrow XT pumpers. 

While many county services are provided by the lowest bidder, Division Chief Jason Shivers said the fire department decided to go with one manufacturer. 

“In years past, we had a litany of different brands, and our mechanics had to maintain a parts inventory for all of the different pumpers,” he said. “But now we only maintain parts for a single brand.”

According to Shivers, having the same trucks also streamlines operations. 

“When a driver moves to a different station, he already knows the apparatus, since they’re all built the same,” he said.

Although the chassis is the same basic design, Shivers said it has been a learning process. Still, he thinks these trucks, which are the fourth generation of the design, are the best yet.  

As an example, Shivers cited the addition of a water intake connection on the front bumper.  

“Before this, we had to hook to the back of the truck, which meant pulling off a full [100 foot]-section of supply line,” he explained. “Now, the driver can pull nose first into the fire plug and, using a shorter hose stored in the front bumper, be hooked up to a water supply much more quickly.”

Other features range from a command screen with a backup camera to wireless headsets, which allow firefighters to communicate over two hundred feet from the truck.  

Mechanic Jack Tribble, who spent the better part of a week installing radios and getting the new trucks ready, has welcomed the changes.

“We went to the dealer’s school for about a week to learn how to work on these trucks,” he said.  “… The days of walking out the door with a wrench to diagnose a problem are long gone. Now, the first thing we do is plug in a computer to diagnose the problem.”  

According to Tribble, the electrical system on the new trucks has also changed.

“The older trucks probably had 150 relays and about 40 miles of wire,” he said. “And now we’ve cut that down to less than half by using a digital communication system to control the electronics.”

The new system allows mechanics to diagnose problems more quickly.

“Let’s say you ask for a light to turn on, you can actually see the command sent, and even see the light receive it,” Tribble said.

Stations 1, 10, and 12 have the new trucks up and running, according to Shivers, who said the first of the Pierce trucks, bought in 2004 will stay in the fleet. 

“These trucks still have miles left in them, and we’ll be using them whenever we bring one of the front line trucks in for service,” he said.