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The Firefighting Irish

University of Notre DameThe University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, was founded in 1872. The college campus, one of the most prestigious and well-known in the country for academics and athletics, covers 1,274 acres and has 1.3 million square feet of building space with 11,733 students on campus.

Recently, the Notre Dame Fire Department (NDFD) was in the market for purchasing new apparatus for its sprawling campus.

The NDFD's primary responsibility is to provide fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services for the Notre Dame community, which consists of the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary's College, Holy Cross College, Holy Cross Village, and other adjacent properties owned by the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the Indiana and Midwest Provinces of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Most recently, the campus has been undergoing construction work on eight new buildings, which results in more density on campus.

Because of the expansion, Chief Bruce Harrison and the other chiefs and officers of the NDFD have been working on an apparatus replacement program the past several years. "We have been developing a concept for working on campus for firefighting," Harrison says. "While most fire departments have been designing bigger rescue pumpers with bigger compartment space for added equipment, we didn't have that luxury. Our department went the other way and went back to the basics. The design of our vehicles became more of a basic core design. We wanted to go back to the basic delivery of fire protection and EMS."

The design concept was simple: design a vehicle with high maneuverability in a dense and growing college campus environment, which is progressing to a pedestrian-safe/limited-access campus. It should have a short wheelbase, tight turning radius, shortened custom cab, tight small pump module, and storage space for basic fire suppression tools that meet the Insurance Services Office standards and National Fire Protection Association 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus.

In addition, the NDFD wanted an apparatus with a 1,250-gpm pump and space for EMS equipment that was required for the standard of care. "By doing this, we really took a standard design," Harrison says. "We didn't want to create a one-off specialty design with any manufacturer."

After all of this work, the department also had to make sure that whatever vehicles it chose would fit into its current, older fire station. Roof height was a big problem.

In addition, the NDFD had to make sure that the vehicle fit its mission as a campus-based fire department and that it communicated all aspects of the vehicle purchase to members of the department to allow the completeness of the project and the acceptance of the concept.

"While we didn't have to go out for competitive bidding, we did send out a request for proposals," Harrison said. "We looked at a great deal of manufacturers. Most manufacturers didn't even bid because they couldn't meet our concept. Also, we had to assure the University that the funds we used for the purchase, which came out of a capital fund expenditure, were wisely spent and will add value to our operation."

One other area of concern was that the NDFD had a 20-year replacement program. In the future, the NDFD would like to bring it back down to 15 years for a better trade-in value.

HME brought demos to the firehouse and all of the members had a chance to drive and operate the vehicles and provide a list of likes and dislikes.

According to Firefighter Ryan Schafer, the whole process went smoothly. "HME was really great to work with from the prebuild conference to factory visits and training. The MiniEvo™ was a stock demo that we bought right away, since it fit in the firehouse. The Rapid Attack Truck (RAT) was custom ordered."

Taking HME's basic design, the department then added 110-volt power outlets in each compartment; a Hale 1,250-gpm pump with a 500-gallon water tank; no generator; a 14-foot roof ladder; and the ability to carry 500 feet of large-diameter hose, 400 feet of 2½-inch hose, and 600 feet of 1¾-inch hose. The NDFD also added a TFT Extend-A-Gun, deluge, basic engine company fittings, and a stainless steel body for strength and rust resistance. Also included were self-contained breathing apparatus seats and a laptop. Both vehicles are low in stature for easy access to the compartments, are user friendly, and have all equipment easily accessible.

Assistant Chief of Operations Pim Hoeppner was instrumental in the whole process. He has been with the NDFD for 25 years and knows the layout of the campus very well. Both vehicles need to operate in tight spaces and with his input the department selected these vehicles.

Not only did the proactive NDFD design new vehicles for its fleet, but members designed them around a concept that was presented to their firefighters, provided a cost savings to the university, and received fully functional vehicles that work for their operation.

Again, proper preplanning is warranted for any apparatus purchase. Make sure you get your money's worth, both for you and your authority having jurisdiction. The big expenditure has to match your specs and also must operate and fit into your operation--in this case, the fire station.

These fully functional vehicles should provide service to this department for many years to come.

Notre Dame Fire Department • 16 full-time firefighters

  • Respond to more than 1,500 incidents per year
  • The chief, the assistant chief, the coordinator of office services, a firefighter suppression technician, a firefighter fire protection technician, and an emergency medical technician (EMT) fire protection technician work weekdays while three rotating 24-hour shifts are each staffed with a captain, a lieutenant, and two firefighter/EMTs
  • 30 part-time firefighters are used for shift vacancies, football games, and other special events
  • Responsible for the inspection, maintenance, and repair of all fire protection systems, including building fire alarms, water-based automatic fire sprinkler systems, and specialized suppression systems for high-hazard areas

RAT Specs

  • Built on an 1871-SFO custom chassis with a 12-inch raised roof, a cab to fit a crew of six and powered by 330-hp Cummins ISL9 diesel engine and equipped with a Hale Q-Flo Plus 1,250-gpm midship pump.
  • Uses HME Ahrens-Fox Hydra Technology™ and has a 96-inch-wide cab with a 45-degree cramp angle for a tight turning chassis in urban environments and stainless steel body for minimal corrosion.
  • Features include a 500-gallon water polypropylene tank; a four-wheel Meritor/Wabco stability enhancement system; an Allison 3000EVS automatic transmission with a push button selector; a David Clark 3800 Intercom system with a remote headset station; a waterproof LCD backup camera; a three-dimensional stainless front grille; cab tilt road interlock; a Gen II full height interior EMS cabinet with a satin anodized roll-up door; deep adjustable shelving and hosebed dividers; a center hosewell; three crosslay beds; an Elkhart "Stinger"; and FoxTrax toolboards.

MiniEvo™ Specs

  • Mounted on a 2014 Ford F-550 chassis with seating for six.
  • Includes exclusive HME Ahrens-Fox Hydra Technology™; a 1,500-gpm Hale DSD midship pump; a 6.7-liter OHV Power Stroke Diesel V8 B20 engine; a torque capability of 660 pounds at 1,600 rpm; six-speed torque shift; Gortite roll-up doors; an LED light system; Fire Research TankVision; 1½ double stack pump house crosslays; a Hale FoamLogix 2.1A system with a Class A foam tank; and a 400-gallon rectangular water T-Tank.


By Bob Vaccaro
Published Tuesday, September 1, 2015 | From the September 2015 Issue of FireRescue

Bob Vaccaro has more than 30 years of fire-service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (N.Y.) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. Vaccaro is a life member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

Source: Fire Rescue Magazine