Apparatus in the Great White North

Three simple words make up the credo of the Toronto Fire Services (TFS), our firefighting brothers and sisters to the north: courage to move forward, compassion in everything they do and service without borders. And those words sum up what the TFS has accomplished in nearly all its endeavors since its inception 5 years ago.

On Jan. 1, 1998, the six municipal fire departments within the metropolitan Toronto area amalgamated and became the largest firefighting force in Canada. The departments include Toronto, York, North York, East York, Scarborough and Etobicoke.


Apparatus Challenges

Chief William Stewart, who has commanded the department since 2003, notes that the creation of the TFS meant unprecedented growth. “We went from a fair-sized fire department with roughly 30 stations to 81 stations after the amalgamation,” he says. “Our apparatus fleet grew as well. Toronto is a large urban city with a population of 2.6 million people. We respond to approximately 140,000 emergency incidents on an annual basis, which equates to 300,000 vehicle responses.”

To meet this heavy call volume, Stewart has set high goals for the TFS’ apparatus fleet. “We have tried to budget our heavy apparatus fleet on a 15-year replacement cycle,” he says. “Therefore, we’re looking at 12 years front-line service and 3 years reserve service. To date, however, we have not been able to achieve the 15-year rotation goal because of budget constraints. We anticipate that by the year 2009 we will have this program fully in place.”

TFS apparatus specs are written by the deputy chief and the chief of the Mechanical Division. “They coordinate the specifications with operations, training, mechanical staff and the apparatus committee, which is composed of firefighters, officers and chiefs,” Stewart says. “The foregoing division staff provides input to the specifications.”


Toronto-Specific Specs

TFS pumpers feature a 178″ wheelbase and are powered by 370-hp Cummins engines using Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmissions. The rigs are designed to be extremely cost-effective, due to the size of the fleet. “If you look at our fleet you will see that we do not go for all the bells and whistles,” Stewart says. “We design for practicality in firefighting operations and ease in maintenance.”

The TFS also specs right-hand pump panels to protect the driver from oncoming traffic and to enable the pump operator to view the fire scene and hoseline operation.

Steel front bumpers are specified along with right-side cabinets on the cabs for medical equipment. These compartments are heated and eliminate loose equipment in the cab of the vehicle. Air-ride suspension and lower hosebeds are also incorporated into the design. “We utilize an extended front bumper along with roll-out transverse beds accessible from the ground, for ease of loading and deployment,” Stewart says. They also use speed lays with a unique left-side, lift-up door.

The ladders have a right-side, enclosed pump operator’s panel, ergonomic hose load, EMS compartments with exterior access door on the chassis and storage boxes on top of the body, under the ladder.


A Successful Partnership

The TFS has worked with Smeal for many years to meet its apparatus needs. The former North York Fire Department made the first purchase, a Smeal aerial, in 1988. Since then, the TFS has formed a great working relationship with Smeal. “With every apparatus purchase, you have some small bugs to work out,” Stewart says. “Smeal has continually worked with our staff to resolve issues in a timely manner with the interest of the customer being their primary focus. They have been very responsive to our needs through technical support and next-day parts delivery. Their customer service is exceptional.” Smeal also builds the ladders used on its aerial ladder trucks, so the vehicles don’t have to travel to another manufacturer for construction.

Currently, the TFS maintains 46 Smeal pumpers and apparatus in service, with 21 vehicles on order. “When we receive the remainder of the order, 60 percent of our fleet will be Smeal apparatus,” Stewart says. “The vehicles we have in service have worked well for us, and are well received by the firefighters who operate them. We plan on dealing with this manufacturer for the foreseeable future.”


A Final Word

After the amalgamation of several fire departments, the TFS took measures to standardize its apparatus specifications so all of their firefighters would be on the same page when it came to operating and training.

The department chose to go with Smeal, which provided them with excellent service and the ability to work with the manufacturer to design what was best for their needs-practical, cost-effective rigs without a lot of fancy options. Remember: You don’t always have to load on all the available options when you’re specing your vehicle for it to be functional. Design for the needs of your community and you can’t go wrong.



TFS Fast Facts

The TFS is the largest fire service in Canada and the fifth largest in North America. It has a staff of 3,143 firefighters responding from 81 fire stations in the metropolitan area.



The TFS Fleet

  • 31 aerials
  • 7 reserve aerials
  • 58 pumpers
  • 18 rescue pumpers
  • 28 reserve pumpers
  • 5 squads
  • 14 support vehicles
  • 4 spare squads/light vehicles
  • 8 training vehicles
  • 3 mechanics vehicles
  • 2 fireboats

Total: 178



Just the Basics

Toronto specs its pumpers & ladders for practicality, not show


  • 370-hp Cummins ISL engines
  • Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmissions
  • 2,000-gpm Waterous pumps
  • 500-gallon polypropylene tanks
  • 18,000-lb. front axles, 24,000-lb. rear axles
  • Whelen LED lighting packages
  • 177″ wheelbases



  • 500-hp Detroit Series 60 or Cummins ISM engines
  • Allison 4000 EVS automatic transmissions
  • 21,500-lb. front axles, 48,000-lb. rear axles
  • Whelen LED lighting packages
  • 105′ steel aerials
  • 230″ wheelbases

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