One of the many things that makes Ben Lomond – and the entire San Lorenzo Valley – so incredible is its amazing location. Situated among majestic redwoods and mountainous slopes, our community is renowned for its natural beauty.
But dense forests and steep roads can be difficult to navigate when an emergency arises. That’s where Ben Lomond Fire Department’s Engine 2213 comes in.
The Engine – purchased in 2015 for about $612,000 and delivered in January 2016 – was custom-built to BLFD’s specifications to fit the unique needs of Ben Lomond and surrounding communities.
From The Ground Up
BLFD Fire Captain Matt Sanders was part of the committee tasked with hammering out equipment requirements and details of the new Engine design. The Engine’s body size and horsepower were two of the most important variables the committee initially determined.
“We needed to have the most powerful motor we could get and we needed the narrowest body build to go with that,” Sanders said. “San Lorenzo Valley has some very steep and narrow roads. For example, some parts of Alba Road are 19% grade, which is the second steepest grade in the state.”
Once specific needs were determined, the committee spoke with five separate companies to see who would be able to build the Engine they sought. They eventually chose Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wisconsin, and built the Engine using the company’s Pierce Ultimate Configuration (PUC).
The PUC is an emergency response vehicle designed specifically for the duties and challenges faced by firefighters today. This particular vehicle eliminates the pumphouse and offers maximum space for additional equipment, allowing for custom design based on a department’s needs.
“At the time, Pierce was the only manufacturer that could put a 500 HP motor in an 8-foot cab,” said Sanders, who has been a volunteer with BLFD for more than 20 years. “They were the only one that could deliver on all of our demands.”
He estimates that the Engine committee spent more than 400 hours discussing options and determining exactly what the residents of Ben Lomond and the fire department needed. Sanders noted that those hours were all volunteer, and that if it were a full-time paid department, committee members would have been paid salary plus overtime.
“We do this because we love it,” Sanders said.
Not Just a Number
Most area residents probably haven’t noticed a small detail that allows the Engine and the Ben Lomond team to stand out among their peers. All of the neighboring fire departments’ engines end in 10 – numbered 2310, 2410 – and Sanders said the BLFD Engine was planned to be 2210.
“A couple of years ago, I went on a strike team out of the county and all the engines were 11’s – 2211, 4411, 2311, and so on,” he said. “It was so confusing being on the radio that we informally changed our numbers to make everything easier.”
To eliminate potential confusion, Sanders suggested to the committee and Chief Stacie Brownlee that the new Engine be numbered differently. Everyone agreed to Engine 2213. The word “Lucky” was added on the front of the Engine to ease complaints about the numerical superstition surrounding the number 13.
“A lot of the time it’s hard to hear the radio, and all the neighboring departments go to each other’s fires,” he said, adding that having the number 13 is an easy identifier for when multiple departments are responding to or at a call.
Aside from the unique number, Firefighter Xavier Chavez said Lucky #2213 stands out on its own.
“There isn’t another Engine like this in the other valley departments,” he said. “So when someone sees it, they know it’s Ben Lomond because of its size and the big BLFD lettering on the sides.”
Engine 2213 is loaded with modern equipment and technology that was selected by the committee to benefit the community and its residents. But along with new equipment, BLFD was able to include used equipment from the old Engine.
The PUC allows for 25% more cargo space with covered raceways and recessed shelving, along with track lighting for better visibility at night. Captain Sanders said the Engine includes auto extrication tools like the Jaws of Life, as well as a super bright “scene-lighting system” that measures 128K lumens.
With a focus on safety, Engine 2213 features multiple cameras including side and reverse cameras for greater visibility. There are also 10 spare SCBA bottles on-board for our volunteer firefighters’ air packs.
The Engine includes a 1,500 gallons-per-minute pump that Sanders said, “is able to pump and roll without an auxiliary pump.” The pump itself weighs 30% less than most currently used and is an upgrade over the previous one.
“Our new fire Engine has more equipment, like vehicle extrication and rope rescue systems,” Firefighter Chavez said. “And it has an automated pump system, which is easier.” He added that the new pump features a push-button system that makes the pump quicker to use.
In addition, the Engine features a turbo diesel motor, anti-lock disc brakes, and 4 quick-attack hose lines that are actually stored in the body of the engine. Captain Sanders said all pieces of equipment – from ladders and medical kits, to tools and the Jaws of Life – are located inside compartments in the body and that “nothing is exposed to the elements.”
The Engine’s on-board foam system offers quicker knockdown of fires and is one of the most economical and safe ways to fight a variety of fires, including vehicle and structure.
Along with old and new equipment on Engine 2213, Ben Lomond volunteer firefighters received updated technology in the Pierce Command Zone. Sanders said this on-board touchscreen computer system alerts to open doors or compartments and is capable of diagnosing issues with the Engine.
Engineer Matt Boynton, 28, has been with BLFD for 10 years and said there was a learning curve to Engine 2213.
“The Engine is larger and initially a bit harder to maneuver around our small roads,” he said. “But it’s really fun to drive and pump once you get the hang of it.”
Boynton added that the Engine is unique in several ways, including chevron stripes on the back, an upgraded suspension system for a smoother ride, a larger cab that tilts, and its ability to “pump and roll” – meaning it can spray while moving.
“It’s like a gigantic Cadillac that has fail safes built into it,” Boynton said with a laugh. “It’s firefighter-proof so we can’t break it.”
Engine 2213 replaced the department’s Beck-manufactured Ford Engine 2210, which didn’t support the new technology and equipment needed for the Ben Lomond community. The old Engine was sold to the Etna Volunteer Fire in Northern California and is now the newest engine in that department’s fleet.
“The engine that we replaced was 1986 technology that I hated to see go,” Sanders said. “But Engine 2210 was a great rig that served our community well.”