Designing Apparatus to Meet Future Needs

Back in the 1970s, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF, now known as CAL FIRE), operated the Orange County Fire Department (OCFD) as a contract agency providing fire and EMS operations to its resident population. Governor Jerry Brown cancelled the contract against their wishes in 1980.

The OCFD was formed on May 16, 1980. Because of continued growth and the incorporation of new cities, as well as additional cities contracting with the department for services, the OCFD explored the possibility of forming a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), and in 1995, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) was formed.

In 2005, the department embarked on modernizing the authority’s fleet of fire apparatus under the guidance of Fleet Services Manager Rick Oborny. “Our plans for our fleet replacement are based on a year and mileage proponent,” Oborny says. “Engines spend 15 years on the front line and 5 years on reserve. Trucks spend 17 years on the front line and 5 on reserve–approximately 120,000 miles. Some can be replaced sooner depending on station rotations.”

Funding for all OCFA apparatus comes from the county tax base. “However, when a large subdivision is being built, the developer usually gives us the land and pays for the building and the fire apparatus that will respond out of that particular station,” Oborny says. “This saves us a great deal of money.”

Planning & Bid
The OCFA involved its apparatus committee early in the spec planning process, which started in January 2006. “Our committee is composed of the fleet manager, the chief, an engineer, field services representatives for mechanics and communications (radio issues) and a member assigned to an engine or truck in the field,” Oborny says. “This gives everyone a chance to be heard about their likes and dislikes.”

After many discussions, the OCFA sent the specs out to bid in May 2006. Three manufacturers bid, with the award going to E-One. “E-One is no stranger to us,” Oborny says. “We have been a customer of theirs for the past 10 years.” The department signed a 2-year contract, ordering seven engines for delivery in June of 2007 and nine additional engines for August 2007. 

“We have one stipulation for the bid: All manufacturers must be sole-source manufacturers with no exceptions,” Oborny says. “E-One met that requirement and also worked with us to design some special options into the vehicles.”

Unique for OCFA
Some of those special options include three flip-down, forward-
facing seats in the rear of the cab. “Our SCBAs are put in slide-out drawers, not the usual SCBA seats found in most apparatus,” Oborny says. “We found by doing this we can limit the amount of knee and back injuries and it’s easier for our firefighters to wear seatbelts.”

Also included are boxes for communication equipment, GPS units and radios, which make for a neat, standardized installation. Equipment won’t fly around the cab if jolted.

In addition, the vehicles were designed without an extended front bumper with the front suction removed. “We installed auxiliary suction inlets on both sides of the vehicle. This was done to make the vehicles have a shorter wheelbase, be more maneuverable and reduce maintenance,” Oborny says.

Other features of note: four-wheel, 17″ disc brakes, Jake Brakes and a transmission retarder, which greatly reduce the wear and tear on the brakes and reduce maintenance and down time.

All engines also feature high side compartments on both sides, a fold-down ladder rack, multiplex wiring and an LED light package.

“E-One has always been a great manufacturer for us to work with,” Oborny says. “It has been phenomenal to deal with them in all aspects. Their engineers and sales people bent over backward for us, and E-One’s local dealer in the area, Valley Sales and Service, gives us great service and is really supportive to our needs.”

The Future
The OCFA continues to enhance its apparatus fleet. “We have a significant amount of orders planned for the future,” Oborny says. “Eleven Type 3 wildland engines are currently on order; we are working on specs for five wildland/urban interface engines and two aerials; and we plan on six more engines going to bid.”

The OCFA started the apparatus speccing process 2 years ago, developing a well thought-out plan to meet their needs. Firefighter safety was designed into the rear of the cab, keeping equipment out of the firefighters’ seating area and also advocating the use of seatbelts by ensuring that SCBA don’t get in the way–something we’re beginning to see more of.

Although you might not need to plan for a large purchase, some of the OCFA’s ideas are an excellent starting point for writing the specs for an individual apparatus. Taking your response area into consideration when writing specs is sometimes overlooked. Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, spec what your community actually needs. Selecting a short wheelbase is an excellent idea if you have tight streets or limited access in a condominium complex or industrial area.

Plan for the future, and plan smart. There’s nothing wrong with seeing what works for other departments, and incorporating these ideas into your plans–as long as it make sense for you.


Orange County Fire Authority E-One Engine Specs

  • Cyclone II chassis
  • 250″ wheelbase
  • Extruded aluminum body
  • 515-hp Detroit Diesel engine
  • Allison 4000 EVS transmission
  • 2,000-gpm Hale Qmax pump
  • 300-gallon polypropylene tank
  • 17″ disc brakes with ABS front and rear
  • Smart Power 10-kW hydraulic generator
  • 22,000-lb. Meritor front axle 
  • 54,000-lb. Meritor rear axle


Orange County Fire Authority Fleet

    • 51 Type 1 front line engines
    • 33 Type 1 front line relief engines
    • 13 Type 2 engines
    • Eight Type 3 engines
    • Six 75′ quints 
    • 11 90′ quints
    • One 100′ TDA quint 
    • 378 miscellaneous vehicles (command Suburbans, paramedic vans, squads, patrols, dozer tenders, dozer transports, heavy rescues, hose tenders, foam tenders, fleet support trucks, etc.)


    Orange County Fire Authority Stats

    • Covers 22 cities and unincorporated areas
    • 511 square miles; 178,000 acres of wildland
    • 61 fire stations
    • 800 career firefighters
    • 390 reserve firefighters
    • More than 80,000 alarms answered in 2007

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