A Tiller That’s Also a Heavy-Rescue Vehicle

Portland Fire & Rescue worked with Pierce to build an innovative, functional apparatus

By Bob Vaccaro

See Pierce Manufacturing Inc. in Product Connect Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | From the February 2013 Issue of FireRescue

When most departments start planning for future apparatus purchases, they usually start the process several years before a vehicle is due to be replaced. Most have 15–20-year replacement cycles built into their budgets. Sometimes, though, budgets can change, and all of that planning can go out the window in a short period of time.

Such was the case with a unique apparatus that Portland (Ore.) Fire & Rescue (PF&R) planned to design 15 years ago. Although the idea never took life back then, it was recently given another chance—and the result is a highly functional unit matched perfectly to the city’s needs.

Way Back When …
The original concept was unique then, and it still is today: PF&R came up with the idea of having a tractor-drawn aerial (TDA) used as a heavy-rescue vehicle. “The concept originally came about 15 years ago,” says Firefighter Tony Snook. “We thought it would be a great idea to take a TDA, remove the ladder and install a crane instead. We had used reserve TDAs as heavy-rescues in the past, so our firefighters were kind of used to the concept.”

Snook, who has more than 20 years of heavy-rescue experience, was assigned to the Logistics Section of the department to work on the new vehicle’s design, along with Division Chief Glen Eisner, who commanded the Logistics Section. But the concept never left the drawing board because of other priorities at the time.

“About two years ago, we introduced the idea again,” Snook says. “We sent out an RFI [request for information] to the various fire apparatus manufacturers. The original specs called for a tractor-drawn concept with a National Crane boom installed on the body of the truck.”

Pierce took an interest in the initial design, but after about eight months of design work, Snook and Eisner felt it wouldn’t work. “We then decided to use a different type of boom on the vehicle and sent out another RFI and went out for competitive bidding,” Snook says. “Pierce ended up being the only bidder on the vehicle.”

What was different this time around? “We specced out a knuckle boom crane,” Snook says. “The crane is manufactured by IMT [Iowa Mold and Tool], which is an Oshkosh-owned company, so the transition was a lot smoother working with Pierce.” (Oshkosh is the parent company of Pierce.)

Suited for the City
Using a tiller design for the heavy-rescue allows it to be more maneuverable in some of the tight Portland streets, especially in the West Hills section. “Also, some of our fire station doors were not high enough to accommodate the traditional type of heavy-rescue vehicles,” Snook says. “We use TDAs in all our other downtown stations, so this fit right in.”

The new vehicle replaces a 2005 ALF traditional walk-through heavy-rescue. “It served us well, but we were looking for added compartment space and the addition of the crane as well as other equipment,” Snook says. That equipment includes a Van Air high-velocity air compressor, a 65-gallon fuel tank with a fuel nozzle that can refuel wave runners if the rig is operating near the river, two 100' Holmatro hydraulic reels, 230-volt Holmatro pumps, and a Stanley Tool system with additional hydraulic pumps. In addition, the rig carries the normal truck company and rescue company complement of tools.

Of course, the crane is the most unique feature of this TDA. “One of the main reasons for having the crane installed is that we’re in an earthquake zone; it’s not easy to get outside contractors with cranes in a timely matter for use after an earthquake,” Snook says. The crane will also be used in building collapses, odd accidents involving heavy trucks where stabilization and lifting are needed, and as a stable high point for high-angle rescue work.

Snook admits the department was a little nervous about using a design for a vehicle that had never before been made. “However, we worked closely with the local Pierce dealer, Hughes Fire Equipment, and the Pierce engineers to make it work for us,” he says. “We had great cooperation with everyone, even though this was a long process. It really worked out well.”

The unit is stationed downtown at Station 1 and responds to all greater-alarm fires, target hazards, incidents at manufacturers that have hazardous materials, technical rescues, high-angle rescues, collapse rescues, water rescues and mass-casualty incidents. It’s housed with a 35' USAR trailer with a Dash chassis; the vehicles supplement each other on some responses.

From Concept to Completion
PF&R proved it can think out of the box when designing a special-needs apparatus for its city. They took a unique concept from the drawing board to completion and they now have a highly functional rescue vehicle that will serve the city of Portland and its fire department for many years.

Planning for the various hazards in the city and how the vehicle would be used at each of these hazards was a primary concern. Added equipment, such as the crane, compartment space and specialized tools, was secondary.

With any apparatus purchase—unique or off-the-shelf—investigate what your needs will be and how your new vehicle will be used, taking budgetary considerations into play before you plan and design your new vehicle.


Sidebar: Portland (Ore.) Fire & Rescue
PF&R operates 30 engine companies, nine truck companies, two fireboats, a rescue and three squad units, including two specialized units for chemical, biological, radiological/nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) response, and a specialized unit for hazmat response. Emergency response is provided from 30 stations strategically located throughout the city to maximize resources and provide the quickest possible response times. The department protects a population of more than 583,000 over 145 square miles.

Sidebar: Squad Specs

  • Pierce Arrow XT chassis with an aluminum rescue body
  • 515-hp Detroit DDC Series 60 diesel engine
  • Allison EVS 400 automatic transmission
  • 9,000-lb. Warn winch
  • Whelen LED light package and floodlights
  • 20-kW Onan diesel generator
  • Vanair HD PTO air compressor
  • Holmatro Core Technology reels and tools
  • Stanley hydraulic tool system
  • IMT Knuckle boom crane
  • Roof-mounted command light
  • Crane reach 27' 3"
  • Crane lifting range 203,970 lbs.

Comment Now: Post Your Thoughts & Comments on This Story

Portland (Ore.) Fire & Rescue recently took delivery of this unique tractor-drawn tiller rescue built on a Pierce Arrow XT chassis. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.
The rear view of the apparatus shows the tiller cab and large compartments. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.
The crane in stowed position. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.
The crane fully extended. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.


A Tiller That’s Also a Heavy-Rescue Vehicle

Portland Fire & Rescue worked with Pierce to build an innovative, functional apparatus
Portland (Ore.) Fire & Rescue recently took delivery of this unique tractor-drawn tiller rescue built on a Pierce Arrow XT chassis. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.


The rear view of the apparatus shows the tiller cab and large compartments. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.


The crane in stowed position. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.


The crane fully extended. Photo courtesy Pierce Mfg.

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