Firefighters could use military truck to reach rural blazes

Feb. 11, 2005
NEWTON, Texas, 10 February 2005. Rural firefighting crews often let fires burn close to roads or towns before they start fighting them, because the terrain is too rough to directly attack the fire.

NEWTON, Texas, 10 February 2005. Rural firefighting crews often let fires burn close to roads or towns before they start fighting them, because the terrain is too rough to directly attack the fire.

Homeland Specialty Vehicles, Newton, Texas, believes its Equalizer Fire Truck -- a five-ton, all-terrain military truck -- will solve this problem. The company is marketing the Equalizer to wildland firefighting agencies across the U.S.

The truck will make its debut at the International Association of Fire Chiefs' Wildland Fire Conference in Albuquerque, N.M., Feb. 16-18.

Originally manufactured as a medium tactical vehicle by Stewart & Stevenson, Sealy, Texas, for the U.S. Army, the Equalizer has been turned into a very tough fire truck by Homeland Specialty Vehicles, in partnership with Boise Mobile Equipment.

The three-axle vehicle is 25-feet long, 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide and can carry 1,000 gallons of water or firefighting foam in a specially modified bed tank. It comes equipped with a remote-controlled cannon on its front bumper that allows the firefighters to stay in the vehicle and spray water or foam up to 100 feet in front of the vehicle while driving. Typically, firefighters have to stop and exit the vehicle to operate their water cannons. The Equalizer enables firefighters to create their own safety zone as they enter an area and provides them additional time to build an action plan before exiting the truck, which can carry three firefighters.

Although it has been modified, the Equalizer maintains its military toughness, and the all-terrain tires are thicker than normal truck tires, therefore more puncture resistant and better able to handle extreme outdoor environments. The truck also comes equipped with a Central Tire Inflation System that can keep a tire inflated even if the tire has a whole as big as a quarter. With the push of a button, a fire crew can also purposefully deflate the tires to provide more traction. The truck offers 22 inches of ground clearance and is capable of climbing grades as steep as 60 percent and can travel through water 30 inches to 60 inches deep. Even though it is large, the truck is able to travel 70 miles per hour, which means firefighters can move quickly into position.

Among the most important features of the Equalizer Fire Truck are its communications tools: a satellite phone, satellite radio and a GPS monitoring system. These tools enable firefighting personnel to stay in constant contact with support teams and can provide guidance when smoke and impassable roads force the crew to take alternative routes.
With all of these essential features, the Equalizer starts at $398,000.

Federal, state and local agencies spend more than $1 billion annually fighting wildland fires. States and municipalities also spend money preparing for or fighting wildfires. Wildfire threats are greatest in: Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. States like Colorado and Wyoming are also at great risk. Lightning causes most wildfires.

Homeland Specialty Vehicles is a unit of Homeland Defense Vehicles, which provides specialty motor coaches to law enforcement and emergency responders. The company also markets converted military trucks and luxury motor coaches to consumers. These consumer vehicles can be equipped with filtration systems that can protect occupants against nuclear radiation from dirty bombs and chemical and biological agents that could be used by terrorists.

"We recognized that wildfires pose a real and regular threat to our nation, so we decided the firefighting market was an appropriate focus for our company," said Daniel Ayres, president of Homeland Defense Vehicles.

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