Learn how the pieces of a quint work together — and why it might not be the bargain that administrators think.
(Article appeared in print as "5 for firefighting")
As Webster’s Dictionary doesn’t include fire-service slang, we have to consult Wikipedia and the NFPA to find what exactly is a quint:
A quintuple combination pumper, or quint, is a fire service apparatus that serves the dual purpose of an engine and a ladder truck. The name “quint” is derived from the Latin prefix “quinque,” meaning five and refers to the five functions that a quint provides. It has a pump and a water tank, carries fire hose, has an aerial device, and carries ground ladders.
Many trucks today essentially are quints because they meet all of the five criteria. But the quint is the ultimate multitasker. It can and does function most of the time on the street as an engine. As engines carry hose, water tanks, ground ladders and pumps, the magic piece in the quint is the aerial.
Let’s look at the five pieces individually and at how they fit together.
The aerial. They type of aerial device you specify will determine how much space on the rig will be taken up by the torque box. The torque box basically is the spine of the aerial device: It’s bolted to the chassis frame rails and holds the ladder turntable assembly and the tubes or attaching points for the outriggers. Some torque boxes can serve as the frame. Rails are bolted to the front of the torque box; in some cases, the rear axle assembly also is bolted.
The size of the torque box also impacts compartment space and water tank size, and occupies real estate on each side of the truck with either two or four outriggers. There also are some aerials that have under-slung jacks that do not take up real estate on the sides of the units.
Aerial size also will determine the size of the hydraulic tank. The ladder cradles and turntables also need real estate and affects the other four parts that make up a quint.
The pump. The pump usually is the easiest factor in the equation. Most midship pump manufacturers offer small, medium and large units that fit in any envelope and can produce the minimum 1,000-gpm capacity flow for the aerial. However, it is rare these days to see anything less than a 1,500-gpm pump, and bigger pumps require more horsepower.
You also must factor in the envelope for a bigger engine, plus larger transmissions and additional PTOs for hydraulic power for the aerial.
As most quints operate as engines, a gen set becomes necessary. Depending on the department’s preference, you could use a diesel-powered gen set that takes up the shrinking compartment space or a hydraulic set up that requires another PTO and try to hide the gen set box underneath.
The tank. Today, we have the advantage of lighter plastics and fiberglass tank construction. Tanks are sized so they can fit easily in the sometimes small and narrow space left between the sides cradle and turntable riser. The only drawback is the capacity. On most engines, the water capacity is 500 gallons or larger. On quints, you usually see only 300 gallons, as quints carry more equipment that occupies space and adds to the gross vehicle weight.
Hoses. Rigs need to carry the minimum of 800 feet of 2.5-inch-diameter or larger fire hose. As the aerial needs water to flow the minimum of 1,000 gallons, you will need large-diameter hose. Before you cry foul, consider this: If a quint is operating as an engine/ladder and is the first-in unit, sooner or later you’re going to have to lay a supply line — as would a single-tasked engine company. Large diameter hose needs plenty of room, and you have to be able to lay it and reload it after the fire is out. LDH only can come out the sides or the middle of the body toward the rear of the apparatus.
For reloading, some manufacturers have ingenious ways to lower the hose beds out right to the ground. Others can extend them out the back of the apparatus on long powered in-and-out trays. Another manufacturer has developed drop-down sides to stand on to easily load the hose. Give this area a lot of thought, because firefighters are loading hose after the fire, when they are tired and chance of injury is increased.
Ground ladders. As the final puzzle piece, you need to find space somewhere on the unit for 85 feet of ground ladders. This usually works out to two extension ladders, one roof ladder and an attic ladder.
As few departments want to give up compartment space for the ladders, manufacturers have developed myriad mounting options. One option is on the fly section of the ladder: This is fine if you are using the stick and need the ladder topside, but it does create some issues if you need it on the ground for non-aerial-type work.
You also have to factor in the four or six firefighters who will ride on the unit, along with their SCBA, tools and other equipment both required and desired.
If you are dealing with a reputably manufacturer, you’ve been told the rig’s weight and been ensured of its safety. This usually is the time that departments decide they need a tandem axle for increased weight, water capacity or extra equipment beyond the original calculations. The cost of the axle upgrades most times ends with the committee decided that if it is getting larger axles, it might as well just get a larger aerial.
A quint can fill a lot of void areas in some cities. In fact, many city administrators use the all-in-one rigs to cut staffing and equipment costs. But this unit can cost as much to operate as an engine and a ladder combined — not exactly the 2-for-1 ratio they projected. The ladder isn’t used as often as you’d think, but we lug it around everywhere we go. Also, ladders can be damaged as much in transit as in battle. And what if you damage the ladder or the pump on this one truck that is acting as two? You might end up feeling like you are down two companies.
Also be advised that quints will need more aggressive maintenance because even the best engineered units are heavy. They eat tires and brakes.
As in any spec or project involving apparatus ask the same questions. What do you expect the apparatus to do?. How long a life do you expect it to live or to last?
By now you should have established an asset life on your equipment. Have you projected what you are going to be doing with it in five years? Good luck with that one. How complex have you made it and do you have the folks trained to service it? Do you have proper training in place, if this is a new venture for your fire department? Have you talked to other users and asked them what mistakes they made and how they did or would have corrected them? Fire departments will share their troubles and solutions, as well as their triumphs and strategies. A wise man told me when I was a rookie to ask questions of the guys who already made the mistakes. You won’t have the time to make them all yourself.
An EVT with more than 20 years of experience, Jimmy Faulkner currently is the service-center manager for the Dallas Fire Department. Faulkner was a customer-service representative for American LaFrance and previously owned Special Equipment Services based in Kaufman, Texas.