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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Station Life: Engine 5

Many people cherish is the memory of their first car.  Some people are lucky enough to have their first car be considered a “classic” or “collector” car.  Here at BFR we are lucky enough to still have one of our first fire trucks!

Engine 5 is a 1986 Pirsch Pumper equipped with a 750 gallon water tank and a 1500 gallon per minute pump.  Engine 5 was one of three fire apparatus purchased by the city in 1986 for the newly formed Brentwood Fire Department.  Back then, Engine 5 was called Engine 510.  The other two apparatus purchased were a 1650 gallon tanker truck (Tanker 1) and another identical Pirsch Pumper, Engine 520.  These twin pumpers had a rather interesting journey to Brentwood in 1986.  

Just as the new fire department was awaiting delivery, Pirsch announced that it would be filing bankruptcy.  Fearful of not receiving its apparatus as promised, Chief Filer and another firefighter flew up to the Peter Pirsch and Sons factory in Wisconsin to lay claim to their apparatus.  Rumor has it they drove them off the line and back to Brentwood with the paint still tacky.  This was apparently a wise move, as Pirsch cut their deliveries short that year and many orders went unfulfilled.  Pirsch officially ceased all operations in 1987.

Brand new Engine 5 at the first BFD Station 1 located near the intersection of Church St and Wilson Pike

Two BFD Captains equip brand new Engine 5 with the tools they need to keep the city safe


Engine 5 at the current Station 1 in the early 90s

Engine 5 is currently based out of Station 4.  While Engine 5 was taken off frontline service in 1997 it can still be called upon as a reserve apparatus if other engines are out for service or repair, though there is another reserve apparatus in line ahead of it.

Engine 5 is also an excellent training tool.  Most pump panels today use electronic controls to open and close valves and adjust pressures.  Engine 5 uses all manual controls and gauges to give an engineer in training a better “feel” for pump operation.  Mastering the operation of this panel makes operating all the other apparatus much easier.

A Haligan and two pry bars are mounted on the outside of E5 for easy access. Modern fire engines are wonders of design and layout; Engine 5 is a bit more utilitarian in nature.

BFR’s newest fire engine has internal ladder storage, but Engine 5 stows its ladders on the side. Many newer engines have powered ladder racks that bring the ladders down to make them easier to remove and stow, but this Pirsch keeps it simple.

The deck gun is another piece of equipment that is still installed on all of BFR’s apparatus today.  The deck gun allows a large amount of water to be sprayed onto a fire in a short amount of time.

One very unique aspect about Engine 5 is that the rear seats are in an open cab formation.  This allowed firefighters to easily exit the apparatus but also meant that they were partially exposed to the elements.  The yellow bar in front of the seat is called a Man Saver.  This bar is a one way barrier that keeps a firefighter from falling out of the apparatus.  To exit the seat a firefighter simply folds the bar up towards the roof or back towards the seat.  Remember, when this engine first came into service, it was acceptable for firefighters to ride on the back! The Man Saver bars weren’t added until approximately 2010. 

A view inside the cab reveals a much simpler design than current fire apparatus.  The air pack seen here is mounted so that the officer can easily put it on before leaving the apparatus

Engine 5 is a cab over design, meaning that the driver sits ahead of the front wheel and over part of the engine.  This allows better visibility and increased maneuverability, two aspects that are very important when driving a fire truck to an emergency scene.  Firefighters often call this a “custom cab” configuration. Every current BFR fire apparatus except Brush 1 and the command vehicles utilize the custom cab design.

Engine 5 not only serves as a great training resource and capable response apparatus, it reminds BFR personnel of where the department started and how far firefighting technology has come.  If you are ever at Fire Station #4, be sure to check out this piece of departmental history.