Tracked vehicles for fire suppression

Converted personnel carrier, North Carolina

Yesterday we wrote about a suggestion at Fire Chief magazine that surplus military tanks should be converted to be able to suppress wildland fires. We pointed out that an M1A1 tank weighs 135,200 pounds and that even if the weapons and some of the depleted uranium armor was removed, transporting it on highways limited to 80,000 pounds and using it in an urban-wildland interface would not be easy. However there are other tracked military vehicles that are much lighter, some of which have been converted and used successfully to manage wildland fires.

Converted personnel carrier, North Carolina
Converted personnel carrier on a fire in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Spring, 2006. Photo by Michael Crouse.

For example, Michael sent us the photo above, and said:

We have a few of these around here in NC. Converted personel carriers. We call them fire tracks and the have a 500 gallon tank in the back with an electric ultra striker pump with honda motors. They are very handy to have in the more remote areas.

And there is the vehicle below that was used on the Lateral West Fire in the Great Dismal Swamp in 2011. It appears to be a Bombardier all-terrain vehicle. HERE is a link to examples of similar tracked commercially available non-military vehicles.

Fire hose "spaghetti" at Lateral West Fire, 2011
Fire hose “spaghetti” at the Lateral West Fire, 2011. USFWS photo by Brad Lidell

Frerson commented on yesterday’s article, saying that in France they are using a converted M113 armored tracked vehicle on wildland fires. They have a module with two of them which they use for suppressing fires in the southern part of the country. Atris Corporate appears to be involved in marketing the vehicle which is shown in the video below.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Tracked vehicles for fire suppression”

  1. You can get M113s from Camp Shelby to convert or use as-is. Why not have the option to send and retrieve crews UNDER armor? “Brush truck” accessories can bolt to the top and sides.
    It’s silly for firefighters not to be able to drive straight through a burnover, for example.
    Look at the Yarnell incident area up close using Bing “Bird’s Eye View”. Tracks could have gotten very close or to the spot.
    Glass block windows for the driver have been done for military 113s overseas and could give the driver 360-degree vision, and AC packs could be fitted (the aluminum hull is easy to work with) so crews could function in sustained heat. 113s are still in active service for very good reasons.

    I’m not selling anything. I’ve worked on 113s for military projects and ran into the Aberdeen Proving Ground firefighting conversion video where they did the usual M548, an M60, and a 113. They use them for range clearance and fire suppression.

    There isn’t squat to modding a 113. If you wanted even more headroom, get the command version (M577 and relatives) then cut the inner “roof” out so you can use the comm gear compartment for headroom. Cutting aluminum armor is easy with hand tools. It’s more like aluminum boatbuilding.

  2. Old FMC/KMC Tracked Log skidders would do great, and easy enough to transport all over the country


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