Hot on the heels of Council’s recent decision to fund a new firefighting vehicle for Lantzville Fire Rescue, Chief Tom Whipps and Lt. Darren Wilson flew to South Dakota to visit the plant making the village’s future “Engine 1”.
Austrian-based Rosenbauer has been around for more than 140 years and is today one of the world’s largest distributors of firefighting vehicles. Its huge plant in tiny Lyons, SD has 270 employees and over 11,000 square metres of production area. Each year, hundreds of Rosenbauer vehicles roll off its busy assembly line.
Before LFR’s future engine begins that journey its exact specifications must be agreed upon by both parties, hence the South Dakota visit. And LFR wasn’t messing around with its representatives: newly retired Tom Whipps is a 30-year veteran of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s vehicle shop; Darren Wilson is an engineer with BC ferries and was a member of the acceptance team for the fleet’s three, German-built Coastal Class vessels which were very successfully introduced beginning in 2008.
That wealth of experience paid off as the pair combed through the truck’s voluminous specifications. They discovered that vinyl hose bed covers had been substituted for more robust metal covers, and that the truck’s huge springs were under-rated by 2,000 pounds. Both errors have since been corrected.
Whipps and Wilson also found several opportunities to allocate Council’s funding more efficiently: by eliminating a front-mounted 4-inch discharge in favour of a much cheaper side discharge they freed up more than four thousand dollars. Some of that money will go to improving the vehicle’s scene lighting, a critical need when attending a car accident or fire at night. They also requested the vehicle’s engine be upgraded from 400 to 450 horsepower and that the front brakes be switched to discs from the standard and less capable drum brakes.
Once these changes are formally entered into the contract the truck will be assigned a place in the company’s production line. It will take about three months to actually build it, but the entire process won’t be completed until late next year. Then it will be time for a return trip to South Dakota, where final additions of small items like grab rails, handles, flashlights and other in-cab accessories will be directed, followed by acceptance tests and, of course, the long drive home. In the meantime, taxpayers can be certain their purchase is in the best of hands.