Truck 152, the Fremont Fire Department’s new aerial engine, will go into official service November 18 following an 11:00 a.m. dedication ceremony at the Fire Station, 415 E. 16th Street. This milestone in the department’s history represents years of planning to select the right vehicle with features to help firefighters serve the community effectively and safely. Rosenbauer Aerials of Fremont worked with the department to design and build the truck that was delivered October 7. Since that time, it has been featured at the department’s open house on Oct. 9 and exhibited at the Oct. 25 City Council meeting. Firefighters have completed training on the new technology and features, and are prepared to take the engine out on calls.
The need to replace the old aerial, a 1985 model, was identified about seven years ago. Thirty years is considered old for an emergency vehicle and at that age, length of service and outdated technology come into play. Fire Chief Todd Bernt formed a truck committee in October 2013, appointing two representatives from each of the department’s three shifts. They worked to select the best model to protect the community as well as remain in service for 30 years, like the old truck.
Committee members collected data from a number of companies, and three firms brought demonstration trucks to the station for inspection. Reaching out to similar-sized fire departments was also part of the process, such as viewing the City of York’s new aerial. Chief Bernt noted that one of the biggest challenges in the selection process was finding the right-sized truck to fit inside the station’s 12-foot doors. Rosenbauer, a company that manufactures 30 different sizes of trucks, was one of two firms with vehicles fitting the door-height requirement. Rosenbauer, headed by CEO Rob Kreikemeier, won the bid.
Designing the new aerial engine has not been quick or simple. Emergency vehicles are highly customized, unlike choosing between the deluxe or standard model car, and there are many feature options. Prioritizing new features and determining how the technology would adapt to future needs helped the committee establish a specification list, said members Richard Osterloh and Alan Atkinson, both firefighter/EMTs. They explained that features were selected to provide longevity, economy and high-tech safety.
Long-lasting galvanized frames and ladders will resist corrosion. The stainless steel pipes and valves are more durable, reducing maintenance costs. The 100-foot remote-controlled ladder has video feed at both the nozzle and pump handle. These features allow one firefighter to operate the ladder and control the direction of the water that exits at the rate of 2,000 gallons per minute. This task required two sets of hands with the old aerial because the ladder could only be operated from the ground. With the advantage of automated features, firefighters can be more effective in extinguishing a fire. That benefit frees up others to perform additional work on the fire scene. Other new features include a Stokes basket (litter or stretcher for rescuing a person), eyelets to rig and anchor a rope, a computer mount for a CAD system, wireless headsets and enhanced lighting. The ladder can also be used on parapet wells.
Full assembly occurred in stages. First, Rosenbauer manufactured the truck’s front end, cab and wiring in Wyoming, Minnesota. Then the truck travelled to Rosenbauer’s facility in Lyons, South Dakota, where the Fremont committee viewed the addition of the pump and body. Rosenbauer Aerial in Fremont added the ladder and then the truck returned to South Dakota for completion. A Rosenbauer employee drove the finished product back to Fremont.
It’s the firefighters and their experience that make this engine and the new equipment such an asset to the community. A crew of nine firefighters serve on each of the department’s three shifts: A, B and C. Each shift works 24 hours and is off (but on call) for 48 hours. While on duty firefighters live in the station’s dormitory of two-person living quarters. They spend a great deal of their time maintaining the equipment. Bunker gear (heavy fire-retardant clothing) is washed in a high-capacity extractor to remove soot and smoke. They perform daily chores in the morning, take turns cooking, conduct truck and building maintenance, do lawn work, participate in training and present fire prevention activities in the community. The workout room provides equipment for fitness training.
When disaster strikes, firefighters are prepared to respond with three ambulances, three engines and the aerial. They use the aerial, the first locally-produced vehicle in the Department’s fleet, for all commercial calls because it offers more capabilities.
The truck committee and Kreikemeier had the advantage of communicating in person instead of across the miles. Rosenbauer has clients worldwide and produces about 100 elevated aerial products per year. Working locally on this custom project provided the benefit of seeing the $930,000 engine progress from the planning stages to completion.
“We had the unique experience of working side by side with the committee,” Kreikemeier said. “It was a pleasure to work with them and walk through the custom aspects to help them achieve the needs they had. Mutual effort is what makes it a custom design.”
Kreikemeier and his wife Pam established Fremont’s R.K. Aerials in 1988 with only three employees and a 5,000 square-foot building. Since that time, Kreikemeier joined with Rosenbauer and now employs 75 at a 40,000 square-foot facility on south Broad Street.
“The development of the company occurred because we have been fortunate to have good employees who made that growth happen,” Kreikemeier said.
Pictured Left to Right: Firefighters Mike Schuler, Michael Bainbridge, Tyler Thomas, Darek Schuller, Jack Kassebaum, & Captain Tom Christensen