Safety First

This is the 2nd article in a continuing series on SAFETY as it relates to our hobby of enjoying antique fire apparatus. REMEMBER – β€œTHE FUN STOPS WHEN SOMEONE GETS HURT OR OUR PRIZED APPARATUS IS DAMAGED!”

Following our last article on fire extinguishers to be carried on your apparatus, feedback was received from members that offered additional suggestions, as follows;

  1. Once the rig is stopped, immediately deploy wheel chocks. This will prevent the vehicle from rolling away while it is on fire and/or you are fighting the fire with extinguishers.
  2. Be sure the gearshift is in neutral to prevent a shorted wire to the starter from moving the vehicle.

Seasoned firefighters will tell you that they have seen both of the above situations occur at vehicle fires, where the vehicle began to move while the fire was in progress.

Another point was made, that if you have a gravity flow fuel tank, you should always have a readily accessible fuel shut off valve on the bottom of the fuel tank. This valve should always be closed whenever you shut down the engine. This will prevent a leaking fuel system from leaking fuel to the atmosphere and/ or onto the ground below the rig, creating a scenario where a serious fire could erupt and engulf your rig. All it would take is a single person smoking a cigarette and throwing the lit butt on the ground beside your rig, a very real possibility at a public event!

Also realize that on some rigs with a gravity flow fuel system, if the fuel is not shut off, the carburetor can leak by and fill the engine pan with gasoline. I have personally experienced this with our Chapter’s 1921 Reo when apparently following an event and parking the rig back into the trailer, we forgot to cut off the fuel at the tank. The next week, we went to an event, got in the trailer and the Reo engine would not fire, very unusual for this most dependable apparatus. After many tries at starting it to no avail, we started troubleshooting and found the fuel tank to be empty, impossible we thought? Further troubleshooting found the oil level to be way above normal on the dip stick and had a smell of gasoline. Turns out, all of the fuel from the fuel tank was now in the oil pan! We were extremely lucky that when trying to start the engine, we didn’t blow the engine to pieces! Always turn the fuel supply valve off when the rig is parked! Another safety check to be made from personal experience – many rigs carried fire extinguishers on the running boards or tailboard and my 1977 Mack is a prime example. On the left corner of the tailboard is a 20 Lb. co2 extinguisher and on the right is 20 Lb. Ansul dry chem extinguisher. One fine summer day a few years back I was driving my rig over the road to a repair shop and upon arrival, I noticed the Ansul dry chemical extinguisher was gone. I was very upset to loose my extinguisher that was original to the rig!

A few minutes later a guy pulled into the shop, walked over & asked if I had lost a fire extinguisher on the way to the shop???? I replied that yes I had. He replied that his wife had hit it on the road and that she now had a hole in the transmission pan of her vehicle! My immediate thought was that I was going to have to pay for a transmission repair. The man handed me the remains of my extinguisher, which was damaged beyond use. He also responded that his wife was going to pay for the damage because she saw the extinguisher in the middle of the road and just decided, even though she had time to stop or drive around it, to just drive over it!!!! He then muttered a few expletives about his dumb _ wife and I was relieved he wasn’t blaming me for the damage!  

The moral of the story is to inspect the extinguisher bracket before going on the road!!! In this case, a pin that held the arm that goes around the extinguisher had just worn through over time & a bump in the road apparently bounced it out, releasing the extinguisher. You can also use heavy wire ties on the 2 piece arms where they clamp to hold them together, if the bracket is not supplied with a locking pin and even some type of quick release tether on the extinguisher is not a bad idea as an extra safety.

We all learn hard lessons from experience, so please write in with your unpleasant experiences so that we may all learn from them and possibly prevent other apparatus owners from making the same mistakes. Respectfully submitted by –

β€” Thomas L. Herman
Chairman, National Safety Committee

Silver Trumpet – 2015 Vol. 4