New Richfield fire truck ready to make its debut

by Sheldon Ocker

So you want to buy a fire truck. Not a $15 Hot Wheels model for your kid, a real live pumper to extinguish fires with 2,000 feet of hose and a thousand-gallon water tank.

A shiny new red and black pumper recently was delivered by Pierce Manufacturing – maker of “custom fire trucks’’ (is there another kind?) – to the Richfield Village Fire Department. It took more than two years to build the truck and after it arrived, Chief George Seifert had to send it out to a local firm to attach the finishing touches.

Even after adding equipment that Pierce doesn’t provide, Richfield firefighters were barred from moving the truck out of its bay until they were trained to operate the vehicle.   

Seifert said the village paid $789,000 for the truck, give or take a few thousand dollars, and Pierce didn’t even include a complementary Dalmatian and a few bags of Purina Dog Chow.

“If we had to order the truck now, it would cost close to a million dollars,’’ Seifert said.

Richfield is fortunate not to require a ladder truck – which Seifert said would set the village back between $1.4 million and close to $2 million – because Copley will come to the rescue with its ladder truck.

The new pumper will replace Richfield’s 20-year-old truck. You wouldn’t think a vehicle with only about 40,000 miles showing on its odometer would be over the hill.

“Just think about it,’’ Seifert said. “Most of our trips are four, five miles – 10 miles round trip. And the trucks don’t go out every day. But some days they go out 15 times.’’

Of course, technology has made the old truck almost hopelessly obsolete. Virtually everything in the new truck is operated by one type of computer or another. “It’s all technology,’’ Seifert said.

There are major differences between the old truck and the new pumper, aside from its electronic operating system.

“The pump is different, the drive train is different,’’ Seifert said. “This one has air bags, rollover protection and side impact protection. It also is air-conditioned. There is a camera on the right side [so the driver sees whether he has room to turn], and there’s a rear camera.

“It’s easier to pull off the hose because the hose bed is lower. There is almost 2,000 feet of hose in different sizes. There are also more lights [to illuminate the scene of a fire].’’  

Getting to a structural fire, grass fire or an accident quickly is crucial, but the speed of the latest fire trucks is tightly controlled.

“There’s a governor on all of these new trucks,’’ Seifert said. “I think the top end is 70 miles per hour. It’s a new [safety] regulation. But it’s kind of embarrassing when you’re going down the freeway with the lights and siren on and everybody is passing you. Nobody slows down, so cars are going 80-85 mph and you’re doing 68, or whatever it is.’’

Superhighways are an indispensable tool for motorists, but they are the bane of a firefighter’s existence.

“Freeways are the most dangerous, and the turnpike is even worse,’’ Seifert said. “It’s just like the Autobahn out there. We hate to go on the turnpike.’’

Not only do drivers refuse to slow down or pull over for fire trucks, they treat the trucks and their occupants like animals at the zoo, according to Seifert.

“What you see a lot of is that they’ll film us as they go by. Live on Facebook,’’ he said. “They’ll film the accident, they’ll film us working the scene.’’

What do you do with an old fire truck?

“The old truck will be sold,’’ Seifert said. “Before, you couldn’t give these trucks away. Five, six years ago you could buy that truck for less than five grand. Now, we’re hoping – and I could be wrong – that it will go for like $10,000.’’

The chief said there are two reasons for the change. One, volunteer departments and small departments that rely on part-time firefighters often can’t afford to buy a new truck. Two, people buy the trucks, sell the engines and scrap everything else.

“The diesel engines aren’t broken in until they have 20-some thousand miles, and they’ll go for hundreds of thousands of miles,’’ Seifert said. “Also, they don’t have any of the EPA stuff on them.’’

The new pumper will include one detail never before seen on a Richfield fire truck.

“There will be a 90-year anniversary sticker on the side of the truck,’’ Seifert said.

The village fire department dates to 1934, and Seifert said a May 18 event will mark the occasion. ∞

Photo: Fire chief George Seifert is helping celebrate
the 90th anniversary of the founding
of the Richfield Fire Department. Photo
by S. Ocker.

On our cover (photos): The new $.8 million Richfield fire truck has a searchlight on top that is helpful at accident scenes. Fire medics Bob Benza, Daisy Stiegelmeyer, Daniel Pierce and Steve Kormushoff are ready to take their first call in the 2024 fire truck. Photos by S. Serdinak.