To the rescue

The fuselage is on fire.

Well, not exactly. But for the purposes of this exercise on a sun-splashed afternoon at Crash Rescue Equipment Service Inc in Dallas, Texas, the fuselage is an inferno.

Crash Rescue Equipment is hosting representatives from Boeing, who are researching the feasibility of high-rise firefighting and are looking for a unit they can put into their Chinook helicopters to essentially transform them into in-air fire trucks. It would be a boom-operated system extending from the rear cargo door. Crash Rescue Equipment officials are showing them the different types of agent application they'd use in that scenario.

They start with the Tri-Max 30, a 30-gallon unit with premixed water and foam. Through the compressing of air, it provides 600 gallons of finished firefighting agent. Crash Rescue Equipment manufactured over 400 of these units in 2004, and they went primarily to Army locations in support of Black Hawk, Cobra, and Chinook operations.

The Boeing reps take turns holding the hose and blasting the fuselage with a stream of white foam from 40 feet away. It's a spectacular display, but not as spectacular as what they are about to see.

They move over to Crash Rescue Equipment's Renegade truck, which features an all-aluminum custom body with roll-up doors that is mounted on a Ford F-550 Super-Duty chassis. The unit carries 150 gallons of water and foam pre-mix and 500 lb of dry chemical that can be dispensed through a hose with a 1½" opening — three times larger than the TM-30 — allowing a flow of 100 gallons per minute. The truck offers a turret option so the operator can use a joystick inside the cab.

The first demonstration features the injection of air into liquid to aerate the foam and make it a thicker, more stable firefighting agent. Then, using the Hydro-Chem nozzle, they discharge water, foam, and dry chemical all at the same time — creating a huge purple plume that envelops the fuselage.

“The purple dry chemical is introduced into the foam agent to carry it out,” plant manager Troy Padgett says.

Padgett stops talking and watches, then yells to the operator inside the truck, “Hey, can you give it another burst?”

More purple haze.

“Discharging water and foam and dry chemical all at the same time gets you the added distance and reach with the dry chemical that you normally wouldn't get if you just discharged the dry chemical,” Padgett says. “It's a dry powder and is subject to wind conditions, but when you introduce it into the water stream, it gets quite a bit more distance.”

Crash Rescue Equipment started in 1967 as a service company to maintain Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) equipment.

Eleven years later, it began remanufacturing all sizes of ARFF vehicles for airport and government agencies domestically and internationally. In the 1990s, it started producing the SNOZZLE, a 50' articulating waterway that is adaptable to most fire vehicles; developed the Tri-Max and Hydro-Chem applications: introduced the RHINO line of high-performance bumper turrets, along with Davis Struts, an enhanced active/reactive suspension system for ARFF vehicles; and the RMT-2000, an automatic, portable fire suppression system for hangar fire protection. Crash Rescue Equipment also operates a Fire Wagons division, which designs and markets emergency services trailers.

“It's kind of a niche business,” vice president Grady North says, “and we're a niche within that niche business, I guess you could say. So we've been pretty fortunate. We don't have a lot of competition. I don't think anybody in the world has the experience or capacity to rebuild ARFF vehicles that we do.

“The other thing that's interesting is that manufacturers like Oshkosh and Emergency One that are building these big trucks are much larger companies than we are. But the amount of their company that's dedicated to ARFF manufacturing is actually less than at our facility. So as far as having a facility that's dedicated to aviation firefighting service and manufacturing, we probably have the largest facility in the world.”

Eighty percent of Crash Rescue's 110,000-sq-ft facility is devoted to the remanufacture of ARFF vehicles from government, military, or commercial airports. On the average, it takes 60 days for the total rebuild. The company does a minimum of six trucks a month under military contracts and another four to eight domestic and international commercial trucks — most of them built by Oshkosh, Emergency One, or KME Fire Apparatus.

Frame-up remanufacturing is a comprehensive program that involves inspection, repair, or replacement of all vehicle components, along with upgrades specified by the customer.

A preliminary assessment is made of the overall condition of the vehicle, operation of all firefighting and drive train systems, body damage, and instrument and gauge functions. Vehicles are then systematically disassembled part by part, leaving only the original frame rails, which are inspected for corrosion or physical defects.

Dyno tested

Particular attention is paid to detailed rebuilding of the engine, transmission, power divider, differentials, axles, drivelines, and other mechanical components. In addition to inspection and replacement of bearings, seals, drive shafts, pistons, and gears, the engines are Dyno tested for four hours prior to the final paint and reinstallation.

Cab refurbishing includes new headliner, floor matting, and seat upholstery, along with repair or replacement of instruments and gauges. Body panels and compartments are repaired or replaced as necessary. Door latches, lift springs, lighting, and all mechanical parts are inspected and replaced if necessary. Each cab and body subassembly is thoroughly sanded, primed, and finish painted.

During each phase of the rebuild process, sub-assemblies are installed and tested prior to completion of the vehicle. The pump and discharge systems are tested to OEM requirements. New hose lines and nozzles are installed and tested. New tires and external hardware (mirrors, lights, etc.) are installed. The final test includes 30 miles of high speed and braking on improved roads and 10 miles of off-road maneuvers on the on-site test track.

“The benefit for the customer is they get a truck — just like if you buy a new one — with a one-year bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year life expectancy, but they pay about one-half as much,” Padgett says. “It's attractive to a lot of people because they spend half the money and not only rebuild, but also upgrade their existing fleet to newer firefighting technology. New trucks mostly offer them a new chassis, but they're still using the same firefighting technology they used 10 or 15 years ago. We push the technology envelope to see how we can better get them to get the firefighting agent on the fire.”

Because commercial trucks generally have a greater variety of equipment and get more upgrades during the rebuild, they are assigned a rebuild team that takes the vehicle from teardown to final reassembly. Military rebuilds are all alike, so they're performed in work cells on an assembly line-type process.

Increased military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past three years have brought growth to the rebuild program — particularly with the Marine Corps' P-19 rescue vehicle, which has been a staple in Iraq. The P-19 is an all-wheel drive, off-road water tanker that is capable of holding 1000 gallons of water and discharging 500 gallons per minute.

Crash Rescue Equipment also contracted with the Air Force three years ago to rebuild the entire Air Force fleet on a 10-year program.

Growth area

The remanufacture program has been the company's core business all along, but it expects its growth and expansion to be tied to its new-products area in agent-application techniques.

“We're doing a lot of research with new techniques,” North says. “We have a very high investment in R&D to carry us forward in the direction the industry will be going in the next 10 years. Our focus has been on agent-application techniques. Our focus is worldwide. We have an internal saying here: ‘We don't manufacture the crash trucks. We just make 'em better.’ Our goal is to have our products on every crash truck built, but not to actually build the truck.”

The SNOZZLE has been a wildly successful product for the company. Padgett says the Federal Aviation Administration now funds this technology for all major airports.

Model P-50 is a 50' elevated water tower that midship mounts to pumper fire apparatus. Its lightweight telescoping and articulating system provides aggressive, quick-attack features that allow firefighting operations to begin immediately while larger pumpers and aerial devices are still being positioned.

It is an initial attack tool that offers a more effective way of protecting people and property. The midship mounting allows the SNOZZLE to be mounted on all types of fire apparatus pumpers without sacrificing water-carrying capacity, hose access, or rear compartments. The joystick controls can be operated with a tether or radio remote controlled at distances of over 300'. A variety of options from Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera systems to the piercing nozzle can aid in multiple phases of firefighting operations.

“We have an infrared camera system that can look outside and determine where the internal heat source is,” Padgett says. “Once the heat source is determined, they can move up with the boom and get into position where it can penetrate the skin of the plane without going inside. They can pump water and foam inside the plane in a mushroom-shaped pattern 40' in all directions.

“Fighting an airplane fire is a lot like fighting a fire in a mobile home. They go up fast and burn very toxic, and it's a real fast environment. The difference is, in a mobile home you have six family members and in an airplane you have 100 people trying to get out.”

Application technology

Crash Rescue Equipment's Tri-Max technology provides both a fire prevention system and fire-extinguishing capability. The foam blanket, formed of uniformly sized, small air bubbles, will remain for hours without need for replenishment. For fuel and chemical spills, the foam cover seals the vapors to prevent ignition and can provide containment for Hazmat cleanup with little or no water runoff.

The Tri-Max-produced foam adheres to the fuel surface and resists heat longer than ordinary foams. In confined areas, only a small percentage of foam is converted to steam as it travels through the fire to the fuel, thus greatly improving visibility. For Class A fires, the penetration of the foam stops combustion — producing cleaner air and less supplemental damage.

Tri-Max-produced cold foam absorbs heat faster, thus reducing temperatures to further improve the firefighting environment. The foam will cling to vertical surfaces providing superior exposure protection.

Hydro-Chem systems — by using foam solution as the means to propel — project dry chemical approximately three to four times farther than that of conventional dry chemical equipment. Padgett says Hydro-Chem technology gives the firefighter a safer and more efficient integrated system of delivering dry chemical onto large pressure and flowing fuel fires.

In operation, ground fires are extinguished using foam only. The foam solution applied then “ties-up” or harnesses the three-dimensional fire, greatly reducing flame intensity. After this reduction in heat, dry chemical is then injected into the foam stream, resulting in a more efficient extinguishing of the fire.

The Hydro-Chem nozzle was designed exclusively to extinguish three-dimensional fires and oxygenated fuel fires from an elevated position. It allows the chemical much greater range over conventional technology by discharging the chemical into the center of a master stream flow. It can provide access to those hard to reach “hot spots.”


Though trailers are not a focal point, Crash Rescue Equipment designs and markets emergency service trailers for foam supply, hazardous materials, trench rescue, triage activities, hose supply, command and control, structural firefighting, technical rescue, decontamination, and wildland firefighting.

The two-axle foam-supply unit, featuring a 1000-gallon propylene tank, is designed for military and civil aviation, petro-chemical, and industrial facilities — anywhere large amounts of firefighting foam might be used. A critical issue at all airports, industrial sites, and municipal firefighting operations is an adequate supply of foam. It must be mobile and easily used when needed at an emergency scene.

The Emergency Cargo Van series is a multifaceted emergency response trailer with an aluminum exterior, steel frame, aluminum one-piece roof, and tandem axles. The ECV bumper pull model is available in 16', 20', 24', and 28' lengths. The gooseneck model is available in 20' to 36' lengths.

The ECV series features a 4' wide rear ramp door with a double-cam lock for safety. This latch allows for a safety pad or combination lock. A 36” camper-style door is standard on all ECV models.

The aluminum exterior of the ECV series is pre-painted, baked on enamel, providing a sleek look. In the coil-coating process, the material experiences a seven-stage pre-treatment process, including a zinc-phosphate wash. The aluminum is rolled through a curtain of paint and proceeds through a series of rollers, creating a smooth surface, followed by a process in which the enamel is baked on, giving it a rich, glossy finish.

In the lot near the Renegade, the fuselage is dripping with foam. Now they're gearing up for one final demonstration — this one with an Oshkosh T-3000 fire truck equipped with a SNOZZLE.

“Once you penetrate the skin of an aircraft, you don't have to go in far to get through the insulation and plastic panel,” Padgett says. “The mounted camera allows them to go inside the plane and look around. It also helps when getting ready to penetrate. Even though the infrared camera tells me where the hottest part of the plane is, when I get there I need to be looking for structural parts of the plane where seams are running through, and try to stay away from them. If you see a double row of rivets, OK, move over three inches.

“The nozzle will blow 1000 gallons per minute of water and foam. It also provides me with that same Hydro-Chem technology that the handgun nozzle inside has.”

The operator inside the truck starts the discharge of water and Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), alternating for a few minutes between a mushroom-shaped cloud and a steady stream.

And then the demonstration is finished. But in a month or so, they'll do it all over again — for another customer who wants Crash Rescue Equipment to design something special.

TAGS: Truck Bodies
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