'Engine 511' Already on Call
By Carla Garnett
On the Front Page...
The NIH Fire Department recently revealed its newest fire fighting acquisition, a 1998 1,500 gallon-per-minute Pierce Saber pumper truck. Designated "Engine 511," the new $250,000 vehicle hails from Appleton, Wisc., seats four fire fighters and offers a substantial increase in pumping capacity over the "old 511," which, after 16 years on the job, was retired to GSA's surplus facility in Franconia, Va.
With the new purchase -- which ended up $50,000 under the Office of Logistics Management's original budget due to key legwork by fire department negotiators -- the department's fleet now includes a mobile command unit, a pick-up truck, an ambulance, a hazmat truck and a mini- pumper to respond to the nearly 2,000 incidents reported on campus annually. In 1997, the fire and emergency response section answered 1,344 fire calls, 382 emergency medical calls and 200 hazardous materials calls.
New Engine 511 has actually been in use since it arrived in mid-March, following its nearly 900-mile, 28-hour trip from Pierce Manufacturing, Inc.'s Wisconsin plant.
"We got slowed down some when we hit a snowstorm just south of Chicago," recalled Chris Mattingly, a lieutenant in NIH's fire department who teamed up with Vernon Williams of OLM to drive the pumper across country to its new home.
Just over a quarter of the way into the journey, he explained, the travelers got an unexpected opportunity to experience one of the new pumper's safety features: automatic tire chains that drop into place with the flick of a switch. "The truck handled real well," Mattingly said, noting that the chains came in handy during the foot-deep snow, "and the storm just added a couple hours to the drive."
Other features of the new Pierce Saber include a 5-inch large-diameter hose (replacing the older 3-inch hose) that will enable fire fighters to more than double the amount of water pumped to a site, and a 100-gallon foam tank and around-the-pump foam proportioner for fighting fires involving flammable liquids. One traditional and familiar fire truck feature, however, is missing from the new 511, and from most modern fire fighting vehicles. There are no handles on the pumper's exterior for the "now strictly Hollywood" sight of fire fighters hanging on for dear life as the speeding engine careens around corners toward an emergency.
"Those days are over," said Fire Chief Gary Hess, smiling. "That wasn't very safe. This truck holds four and that's all."
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