Firefighters take the wraps off new truck

Eighteen months after the Board of Selectmen approved its purchase, the new Engine 4 is finally in the hands of the Wilton Fire Department. The newest fire engine for the department cost the town $663,000, and was commissioned to replace a 20-year old engine tanker.

Engine 4 was designed based on a list of 250 specifications drafted by Deputy Fire Chief Mark Amatrudo and a team of firefighters over several months last year, and was designed in Marion, Wis. by the Marion Body Works company.

It was delivered to the department in mid-September, and training on the engine is just about completed.

What does it do?

With a 2,500 gallon tank, a tanker engine allows firefighters to use water in areas where there are no fire hydrants. An average single-room fire can take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 gallons to be brought under control, though once the fire reaches multiple rooms, the amount of water needed rises exponentially.

“This kind of truck is the main source of water for non-hydrant areas,” Wilton Fire Department Apparatus Supervisor Ralph Nathanson said last week. “That’s important because 75% of Wilton is non-hydrant. That’s pretty substantial.”

It also does double-duty, Mr. Nathanson said, as it contains most of the gear also carried on a plain engine truck.

In addition to fulfilling its traditional roles, the new engine tanker has a list of features that make it both safer, and more effective than previous Wilton engines.

One feature of the engine that is new to the department, the apparatus supervisor said, is the low-amperage light tower that rises out of the engine’s roof on a robotic arm. Providing an amount of light similar to a street lamp, the light tower can make on-scene work dramatically easier.

“One of the toughest aspects of fighting fires is being able to see at night,” Mr. Nathanson said. “With this, it’s almost like daylight.

On the safety side of the equation, the tanker engine has standard roll-over protection and compensation. A computer inside the cab continuously monitors the truck’s movement, as well as its throttle and brake position to provide hydraulic anti-rollover support.

A high-torque engine, Mr. Nathanson said, is also an excellent safety upgrade — though powerful engines are not often connected to safer-operation in passenger cars.

“With a high-torque engine, the driver can approach a hill at the posted speed limit, and continue up the hill at the posted speed limit,” he said. “In my 35 years on the job, I’ve always gone bigger, because it means the guys don’t have to make running starts to climb hills. It makes everyone safer.”

On the flip side, an improved braking system — which includes an engine brake — also adds to the new engine’s overall performance.

Ready to go

It takes a little more than a month from the time an engine is delivered to being put in full use, Mr. Nathanson said, as every firefighter in the department has to be well aware of its intricacies.

“There’s driver and pump training to go through during what I call the ‘shakedown period,’” Mr. Nathanson said. “All of the engines are pretty similar, but you definitely have differences, too. We have to familiarize ourselves with everything.”

The department officially unveiled and dedicated the new engine to the public during an open ceremony on Wednesday morning at fire headquarters on Danbury Road, where Father Reggie Norman, of Our Lady of Fatima, blessed the engine with water from the River Jordan.

“This is ours to use, but this engine belongs to the town,” Firefighter Brian Elliot said at the dedication.

“Its the result of countless hours of discussing every detail, and the many lively and opinioned discussions that went with it.”