SFR adds brush truck

From left, city fleet maintenance staff Neil Willatt, David Whitehead and Brad Rownd pose in front of a former Army cargo truck they converted into a brush truck for Seminole Fire Rescue.

SEMINOLE – Late last fall, Seminole Fire Rescue welcomed the newest vehicle to its fleet — a former Army cargo truck, a Stewart & Stevenson LMTV, converted into a brush truck.

The truck is a replacement brush truck; the department’s previous vehicle filling that role was 53 years old when it was retired.

“It was tired and it smoked real bad,” said Brad Rownd, the city’s fleet maintenance manager. “It had seen its time.”

Firefighters use brush truck to fight fires in parks, recreational fields and woods, making it an integral piece of equipment for SFR, he added.

“It’s, to me, one of the more important vehicles around here because we have so many $1 million homes backed against parks and lands of that nature,” he said.

Areas such as Walsingham Park and Lake Seminole Park are where such a truck might be needed, Rownd said.

The truck is on permanent loan to the city from Florida Forest Services at no cost. Converting the vehicle to a brush truck only cost the department the cost of steel and other parts as all of the work was done in-house by fleet maintenance staff, said Chief Heather Burford.

“Maybe it took a little bit longer, but these guys doing the work on it really saved the city, the department, a lot of money,” she said.

Rownd said he and David Whitehead, fleet maintenance mechanic, created the plans for “a user-friendly, automatic” brush truck. It’s the third such truck the team has built, Rownd said, but “definitely the most extensive.”

 “There were no plans for this. Nobody had built anything like it before,” Whitehead said. “We built it from scratch.”

Prior to the truck going into service, they worked on it for nearly a year in between their regular work and other projects, he added.

“If you’re a gearhead like us, this was cool to do,” Rownd said.

Whitehead added, “It was a lot different from what we do day in and day out. We change oil, change tires. You get to do something like this and it’s a lot of fun.”

Modifications included a roll cage over the vehicle, an extended heavy bumper on the front, hand built storage sections, an 11,000-pound. wench, the water tank from the previous brush truck, a new hose reel, floodlights, a modified throttle and air packs in the cab.

They made everything easy to remove so that the vehicle can be converted into a high water rescue vehicle if needed, Rownd added.

Whitehead estimates that this vehicle outfitted with the modifications made by fleet maintenance would have cost the city $400,000 if purchased new.

Burford said she’s “proud” of the team’s work.

“What these guys have accomplished in terms of fabrication of systems that then make it a safer, more usable vehicle for us is just outstanding,” she said.