By Jonathan Weaver
With the successful purchase of a 2013 Rosenbauer fire engine last year, Kittanning Hose Company #4 will be starting bid procedures to sell its old apparatus.
In 1984, the American LaFrance was purchased new from the since-closed Elmira, New York plant by Kittanning Borough for $187,000. At their meeting earlier this month, Kittanning Borough Council unanimously agreed to allow the fire department to bid out the apparatus and give the money toward Hose Company #4.
Hose Company #4 Fire Chief Earl “Buzz” Kline was fire chief in 1984 and inspected the truck before it was driven back to Kittanning.
“It’s been a good truck,” Chief Kline said. “I know a lot of guys that are going to be sad to see this go when it does go.
“It’s been a work horse and proved its efficiency many, many times.”
For providing emergency assistance from the streets of Kittanning Borough to those nearly 30 miles away in Indiana County, the American LaFrance has less than $14,000 miles on it and – although firefighters have had to replace tires, batteries and water hoses – the original engine, transmission and brakes.
The apparatus is currently equipped for back-up usage, but is not deemed safe by updated regulations. Because of that, it cannot be sold to another fire department.
“Whenever we filled the narrative out for the grant process (for the new 2013 Rosenbauer), we put in there that it didn’t meet (National Fire Prevention Association specifications) and it didn’t meet State inspection (specifications), for the simple fact that the back of the cab is open. That’s a safety factor and that’s the only reason,” Chief Kline said. “If a broker would buy this and close it in, they could sell it to another fire department or whoever he wants to.
“Since we deemed it unsafe for our use, we can’t sell it to another department. We can sell it to an individual or broker of fire apparatus.”
Firefighters transferred the deck gun and bell from the American LaFrance to the Rosenbauer, but the Rosenbauer contains many new safety features and fire protection advances: including all ladders and hoses kept in internal compartments out of weather conditions, up to 80 pounds of oil dry to clean up oil spills and can transport an extra firefighter in the enclosed cab.
The Rosenbauer engine – which is expected to service the region for 30 years – also contains Kittanning Borough’s only air foam system, Chief Kline said.
“We put a compressed air foam system on it – which if, we’re using this at a structure fire, the 500 gallons of water and the 30 gallon of foam we carry gives us 2,500 gallons of firefighting capability,” Kline said. “It takes that 500 gallons of water and multiplies it, so instead of lifting that heavy hose, you’re lifting a real light hose that’s actually just bubbles.”
An air foam system – the only one available between the three town fire companies – is to further eliminate the chance of a fire rekindling and does not fatigue volunteers on-site.
However, if Hose Company #4 firefighters deploy the foam system, other companies must shut off the water attack. It has only been used in drill scenarios since the engine was acquired.
“When you open the nozzle, you get quite a surge of air – and if you’re not ready for it, it’ll knock you on your behind,” Chief Kline said.
With the exception of water cans, all equipment on the truck was bought through Hose Company #4.
Other features on the new truck include up to 14 breathing apparatus packs, two gas and two electrical fans, and a chainsaw and saw to cut through a roof. When materials on the American LaFrance are finally taken off, the Rosebauer will be equipped with 3,000 feet of hose – enough to stretch more than half-a-mile
Prior to the American LaFrance, #4 firefighters utilized a 1959 Mack engine – which is now utilized on a Butler County campground
American LaFrance ceased operations at its South Carolina headquarters in January.
After the engine is sold, Hose Company #4 firefighters will be left with a 1980 Mack air truck – the only air truck in the Borough – which is still in-the-running for a Department of Homeland Security federal grant that would cover nearly $174,000 in breathing apparatus.