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Fire Chief Wants to Replace Fire Engines With Pickup Trucks


Save Money and Fight Fires (or something like that)

THE CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN, HAS DIRECTED the Fire Chief Laura Knapp to cut spending 10% over the next three years.  So she has come up with a plan that the City Council loves to hear.  So much so that yesterday morning (Tuesday) they unanimously approved the plan and gave her the go-ahead to start implementing it.

The city has 11 fire stations and Knapp plans to replace the fire engines in three of them with "Quick Response Vehicles" (QRV's), described by the fire department as "basically a Dodge chassis with a box on the back" for a 300-gallon water tank and compressed-air foam system.

This GRFD drawing looks an awful lot like THIS ONE:

SGVN photo

The selling points for this conversion are first of all, replacement costs of $873,000 for all three units compared to a comparable price for one real fire engine. 

Secondly, the QRV's will only carry two firefighters instead of the three or four currently riding on the real fire engines.  This will allow the department to operate with 12 fewer firefighters, music to a councilman's ears.  Twelve is the magic number because the SAFER grant that the FD received to fund 12 positions runs out in three years and apparently the city does not have plans to retain those slots.

Chief Knapp projects a total savings of $21 million over the next 15 years once the plan goes into effect.

The Grand Rapids Press tells us:

Knapp hopes they will help the fire department maintain existing service levels in the face of coming staffing cuts.

About 89 percent of current fire-service calls are handled by a single unit, Knapp said. The "quick-response" units could handle those calls, she said.

"We need to better align our resources with these single-unit calls to ensure our performance is maintained (as we reduce firefighters to cut costs)," Knapp said. "Right now we don’t have a lot of flexibility in our deployment. The (‘quick-response vehicle’) is the answer for our current rigid operational system."

The firefighters themselves aren't convinced yet that fewer fire engines and fewer FF's will translate into "maintaining existing service levels."  William Smith, president of the Local tells the GR Press,  "If they’re rolled out, we’ll do what we’re told to do. There’s a question of how effective they’ll be."

WZZM-TV filed this brief video report:


Full report in the Grand Rapids Press HERE.
Local President Smith speaks more about their skepticism HERE.

Firegeezer notes:  These things became popular back in the great recession of the late 1970's.  Back then they were called "mini-pumpers" and were introduced with the same promises we're hearing from Grand Rapids.  Several dozens of fire departments jumped into the concept, but within three years they were all back to Plan A.  Why do people think it will magically start working now?  Or is this just a gimmick to get the budgeteers to turn their focus onto another agency?

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Fannin

    This is absolutely insane, as is the Fire Chief. First by reducing staffing, Second by removing REAL fire apparatus which carry more water, and more hose. This is asking for trouble. It would be cheaper to replace the Fire Chief with a Competent one. North Myrtle Beach SC tried this concept except for they just bought regular pickup trucks with no water or hose. It’s a failing system that wasted tax payers money on useless trucks. All it did was put the public at risk when the first thing to a fire was a pickup truck with 2 guys and a fire engine with 1. Hopefully someone with brains will stop this. Unlike in North Myrtle Beach where the fire chief is still making incompetent decisions.

  • Anonymous

    Why not but some VW Beetles equipped with one FF and several fire extinguishers? That would be cheaper still and serve the same purpose! (Que circus theme song)

    • Anonymous

      I believe if you check Statter’s site, he has a picture of Jerry Engle’s “response bug”… that might be available.

  • Pingback: Obviously This Is The Next Step In Safety « Backwards And Stupid()

  • ukfbbuff

    A return to the 1980’s concept of the:

     “Mini/Maxi” response.

    One ICS Type IV vehicle followed by one or two ICS Type I Engines/Truck till the size of the fire is proved to be “small” or exceeds the capability of the Initial Attack forces, when more equipment is called for.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this works out.
     But Reductions in Staffing is Not what is needed.

    “Penny wise and Pound Foolish”…Ben Franklin

  • Old12

    Looks like alternative might be closing stations – the line blurs between “enough fire truck” and a “really big fire truck.”

    Does not look like it is the equipment issue, but the staffing issue that is driving this decision.   

    The price of the half a million dollar truck that can be used for 10 plus years, is of little consquence when you have an annual cost of $1 to $1.5 million to provide three positions around the clock. 

  • will

    ummm i thought that it was the same anywhere 2 in 2 out rule with 2 on a truck that means 1on the truck and 1 inside the fire how the heck does that work hmm sounds to me like gonna lose firefighters anyway.   why not close a station and put them in other stations and then close a station then you dont have the price of keeping up that station.

  • Jgaska531

    If GRFD has a grant writer on staff the apparatus replacement should be no problem. I live in a rural area (population 2500 in town) and we replace 1 of our apparatus every ten years providing the city helps fund it. Most larger cities get the grants and smaller departments that can’t afford a grant writer keep going further behind the times. We are fortunate to have a volunteer department that I would put up against any city department!

    • Rural_Chief

      I think large dept. that get a SAFER grant and then letsit exp. an not continue what it did should not be able to get anotherr grant

      • firegeezer

        Good point, chief. I agree with you. Sounds rather unseemly.

  • Cdfd552wilson

    The problem is that all of these city council members all across the country are trying to save money by cutting the services that the citizens need and the last proposition You will ever hear is for a cut in the salary that They receive. When will people realize this and stand up to the local government that makes these decisions? Every day Firefighters are being laid off while city council members and other local government figures are raking in the unearned and undeserved cash.

  • Brad

    Cutting people who protect one of the bigger cities in the state is an AWESOME plan! Good thinking! Cant wait to get called in for support when you dont have enough personnel to take care of the job yourselves… And what about car accidents? Are these “QRV’s” gunna be blockers too? So what happens when someone smashes into it? They might stop a Prius but not an F-250… And! What happens if the QRV gets into a accident on the way to a scene? Their lower and provide less protection for the firefighters.

    See ya on the fire ground GR!

  • Jeffmhester

    So they plan on running two man “pickup trucks”.  How does that work with two in-two out.  You’re going to have more trucks showing up now to cover on fire.  The first big fire they have after this replacement they will be beging for the “REAL” fire trucks back in sservice.  These pickup trucks have there place and I can see a use for them, but hopefully not to get the council persons hopes up of running a full deploymnet of these.  The money cut shure looks good on paper…

  • Wrench1988

    It,s smoke and mirrors. The city of Syracuse NY  tried it in the 80’s and everyone else jumped on the bandwagon including my department. Things always look good on paper, eventualy they and our Department did away with it but it took us almost 15 years.First mini junks are not built or ment to be used like that or stand up to that kind of hard use.
    It is definetly a safety issue. In the old days our mini junk would pull up with a driver and an Lt. The driver would get the pump going while the Lt would run in with a line then the driver would mask up and follow in and hope that the big fire truck would get there quick and hook up a feed line and provide back up. We had a 250 gpm pump at the time and a 250 gal tank and could get maybe 3 to 4 min if used REAL sparingly.Problem is you never know what  you are going to roll up to. We ran it first due on everything from house fires to a gasoline tanker fire. You can respond to what you think is a simple carfire and it can turn to do do and now you have to wait till help arrives. we found that out on many many ocassions. 250 even 300 gals doesn’t last long and we found ourselves doing progressive firefighting, progressively bigger lines and and progressively bigger fires.
    Even simple things like brush fires we would find ourselves running out of water and calling back for a REAL fire engine. When we finally got a new chief that saw with a clearer vision we stuffed it in the back until we got a new Real pumper. one shift went to a car fire sounds simple heh, suprise when the car was in a garage and 250 gal of water.

    Mechanically it was a problem too. Had a lot of problems with the springs, couldnot handle the weight of the water ,pump and other equiptment.

     As they say this will pass just like it did before

    • Shutterklcker

      hopefully before it produces bodies … victims and recuers …

    • Mike “FossilMedic” Ward


      Appreciate your perspective on the limitations of a mini-pumper.

      Syracuse is continuing to use the mini-max concept, splitting the four person fire company into 2 and 2. Now the mini unit is an ems first responder rig, with two of the mini units actually ambulances.


  • Jim

    It depends on what fires you send these trucks on. My problem is $291,000 per truck, if I’m reading that right.
    We bought one 4 yrs ago for $120,000, so where is the other $170,000 going?????

  • Jim

    And if they are only sending 2 FF why spend the extra for a 4 door cab?????

  • Byron McDonald

    Well there goes their ISO rating out the window. Absolutely ridiculous. I agree with other comments to.

  • Shutterklicker

    These so called “Quick Response Units” could be a valuable asset to any fire department, but should be in addition too, rather than replacement for full fledged apparatus.

  • guest

    What a joke, a 300 gallon tank!? that’ll be good for all of 1.5 mins on a fire scene.  Can’t be very useful protecting a scene at an MVA since it’s just a little larger pickup.  Two man response crew, nothing like crew safety; so much for two in two out.  It’s going to really be a bad day when they pull up on scene with this and can’t do anything till others show up all while someone is trapped inside. Hopefully it only responds to single level homes as it has no ladder for rescue.  Maybe it’d be a handy brush fire truck but I can’t see there being many of those in grand rapids.  It is nice how cities are quick to cut staffing for dangerous work but pad their pockets daily sitting behind a desk….. It look good on paper till people start getting hurt or killed and the citizens are outraged..

  • Hecksr

    Whats next? Cops have to give up their arsenal and use BB guns?

    Going cheap on fire protection can end up in millions in fire losses.

  • Jgarland


  • Khe2232

    Wait til one of your Quick Response P/Us arrive on a real working fire w/ people trapped inside. Two FF can not go inside by them selves w/o back up. When someone dies do to this rediculous idea, the Lawsuits against the FD and the City alone will bankrupt their stupid idea. You cannot place money before peoples safety and lives.

  • FireBlogger

    There is some merit here. As long as a full response engine is in earshot there should be no problem with a quick response unit arriving first for size up etc..

  • Dmurphyffrp

    LIABILITY….You decide Chief or City Council…who suffers the brothers on/off job or the budget and public

  • Tncafs

    This is an excellant reason to have Fire Service history taught.  An indepth study with time line would keep us from reinventing the wheel and learn from past mistakes.  Then analysis of why and what contemporary technology has for us today.  Lets just say that the “Big Picture” was not seen before this endever was undertaken.

  • Peter Duran

    Very bad mistake!!!!!  Risk is too high for firefighter injury unless all firefighting is defensive. This is a dirty way to reduce manpower. All around, it is a bad plan.

  • Ron Anderson

    No way a quick response unit ( brush truck ) can replace an eng. with a full crew. The city fathers better open their eyes…  It might cut costs  but will  not be a cure all …