Some contract engines are failing inspections

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While there are many privately-owned wildland fire engines and water tenders contracting their services to the federal government that are high quality and professionally maintained, some others, apparently, do not fall into that category.

There is a report that 70 percent of the water handling equipment being inspected this year in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area are failing. Some of the most common issues are:

  • Pumps not being able to draft due to pin holes or bad gaskets.
  • Pumps not meeting pressure requirements due to wear or trash in the pump head.
  • Poor Department of Transportation inspections that are not catching items such as broken brake shoes, wheel bearings, and tie rod ends.
  • Fire shelters not in serviceable condition.
  • Required complement being moldy, missing or not in order.
  • Engines coming to the inspection site covered in mud and caked on dirt.
  • Back up alarms not mounted pointing toward the rear of the apparatus and full of mud or dirt.
  • Tank baffling not meeting standards.

It is possible that some of the less professional operators use the inspections to supply them with a to-do list of maintenance items. Again, many contractors have high quality equipment that is maintained to the highest standards, but it is worrisome that 70 percent fail the initial inspection.

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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 “Some contract engines are failing inspections”

  1. I am an Engine contractor from Regions 4 and 5 and am glad to see that the Rockie Mountain Region is doing a better job of pre-inspecting their contract water handleing equipment. Last season we worked with sub-standard equipment in Colorado, Idaho and South Dakota. I was appauld that most of the equipment was so under current specs. but had been awarded cagreements. Regions 4 and 5 equipment inspections were very intensive- they checked eveything on our engines (that were required) under the Agreement- we were wieghed, pumps thoroughly inspected, all PPE and required equipment were also inspected. Although we had also provided DOT inspections, we were re-inspected by Agency folks for vehicle failures, again. Last season I saw conract engines from the Pacific Northwest, Idaho and Montana, in the field that wouild never have passed inspections in other Regions. I worked with one engine from Oregon where the tank was not bolted to the bed of the truck, another from Montana that used a 2 inch trash pump that the operator claimed to do 400 psi but could not draft or push water through 100 feet of P-hose. The current Agreements are meant to stadardize all equipment to the same Nationwide specs,. make for a fair and even playing field and to provide top quality equiupment. It is a black eye on the contracting community when the crappy equipment is allowed to participate in the agrement process and is awarded agreements. The Federal inspectors that allowed this sub-standard equipment to pass pre-season inspections 3 years ago, should be fired.

    1. Some of that may be related to what kind of resources those regions use the most. I took a gov’t engine to Oregon a few years ago and had the most detailed check-in inspection I’d ever gone through, because they are very used to contractors and don’t rely that much on cooperators/govt resources. Had to show the inspector every 1.5″ NH to NPSH thread adapter, everything. Been to other areas like R2 where almost all resources are cooperators with few contractors, and check in takes a few minutes of “left turn signal, OK brake lights, Ok you’re good to go”. So it’s easier for a piece of garbage, cobbled together excuse for a truck to slip through in those areas.

  2. Nice to see that they are being hard nose with the pvts .. In the last few years i have seen great strides in the pvt engines. Kepp up the good work folks


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