Fire Trucks 4 Africa has a wide range of rugged fire trucks and ambulances for deployment to handle emergencies like fire accidents in the harsh mining environment. The company views increased spotlight on safety that COVID-19 has elicited as an opportunity for suppliers of fire trucks and ambulances.
So far, it has turned out that the most costly part about COVID-19 has not been fatalities, but the economic devastation hard lockdown measures that countries implemented to prevent and contain infection have caused. And the impact has been enormous on the global supply chain, sparing no area from food to machinery production.
With reference to mining-specific machinery, one area where this has impacted is the supply of fire trucks, new fire engines and ambulances from OEMs to customers based in different regions. Foreseeing this challenge early this year, when lockdowns were imminent, Robert Pegg, the managing director of Fire Trucks 4 Africa, reveals that his organisation had made contingency plans to ensure that sufficient stock for clients was readily available. And so, he guarantees mining companies that his company is sufficiently resourced as mining companies in South Africa and the region are increasing production after easing of the hard lockdown.
Pegg is confident that client preferences in fire truck and ambulance brands and quality will remain pre-COVID, as he reminds industry about features of rugged vehicles that should be prioritised.
- Fire trucks
Based on Fire Trucks 4 Africa’s orders from clients, the most common range supplied are 4×4 and 6×6 drive fire trucks. The 6×6 are more expensive, but if the mine needs a large amount of water and foam, the company offers them. “Most common makes are Mercedes and Iveco with Iveco chassis being cheaper than Mercedes. A lot depends on the make of trucks used on the mines and the availability of spare parts in the country of use. If a mine operates a fleet of Mercedes trucks, then they prefer to have a Mercedes fire truck, so spares are kept to a minimum,” Pegg says.
Fire Trucks 4 Africa ensures that the rugged mining-specific fire trucks it supplies are fitted with basic accessories to make them ideal for application in the mining environment.
The primary component is a fire pump that delivers water and foam through outlets, hose reels and a roof monitor. The capacity of the pump may be specified by the mine, but if not, Fire Trucks 4 Africa offers the most suitable for the fire risk the mine has.
Taking into account that a pump is a critical accessory of a fire truck, Fire Trucks 4 Africa strives to deliver the best possible quality, Pegg stresses. “There are many pump manufacturers and prices can vary considerably. We offer the best value for money pump that meets the requirement.”
Another critical component is roof monitor, available both in remote control and manual options, which delivers water and foam. The most popular one is a manually operated model which is less expensive and easier to repair when damaged.
Generally, the monitor must have a range of 50m + to allow the fire truck to remain out of danger. For small fires, Fire Trucks 4 Africa fits a 50m hose reel with electric rewind system. These discharge around 250 litres/min, implying that the tank supply of 5,000 litres on a 4×4 fire truck will last around 20 minutes at full discharge. The water tank on a 6×6 fire truck is normally 10,000 litres.
Other equipment supplied with the fire truck consists of lengths of lay flat hose, water and foam nozzles, suction hoses for use from an open water supply, a dry powder hand extinguisher for electrical fires and a first aid kit. Some mines specify PPE for the staff and air breathing sets (SCBA sets) and other equipment relevant to the fire risk they have on site.
The Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4 station wagon fitted out as an ambulance is very popular. Many mines operate a fleet of Land Cruisers for the managers and supervisors so a Land Cruiser ambulance fits in with the fleet regarding spare parts requirements. Typically, the requirement to have a fire truck and ambulance on site is often secondary to vehicles and plant required to operate the mine.
Only quality vehicles engineered for rugged environments
Fire Trucks 4 Africa urges mining companies to only settle for quality fire trucks and ambulances that are specifically engineered to operate in harsh environments. As most mines are in remote locations and terrain is often rugged, the company recommends vehicles with suitable off road capability. “The primary concern should be longevity of the fire truck or ambulance and the availability of spare parts. The body and fixed equipment must be suitable for rugged conditions. The standard in Europe and USA is now plastic bodies and tanks. Of course, they are cheaper to produce and fit, but they are not recommended for mines, as they require specialised plastic welding equipment to repair damage, which a mine will not have. Alternatively, steel and stainless steel is recommended where damage can easily be repaired or a panel replaced,” says Pegg.
With reference to fire pump specifications, it is recommended to use a manually operated system, which is sufficient and less expensive, than a computer assisted alternative, Pegg advises industry. “Computer assisted systems are not suitable in a mining environment due to dust conditions, which can affect the computer system.”
Besides, while cognisant that mines appreciate the importance of quality, Pegg acknowledges they can only purchase products that they can afford. That is why, the company offers a wide variety of fire trucks and ambulances to suit the budget available and requirements, he says. “If the budget is limited we offer less expensive vehicles. The Chinese make Sinotruk is accepted in some countries and spare parts are becoming available in many African countries including South Africa. Prices are around half of a similar European fire truck and they are proving to be reliable and tough enough for most conditions.”
Safety compliance to sustain demand
By and large, notwithstanding effects of COVID-19 on mining activity, Fire Trucks 4 Africa believes that fire trucks and ambulances, as products key to enhancing safety in mines, will always be in demand in the short, medium and long-term. “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of leaving no stone unturned in complying with Mine Health and Safety Regulations. Hence, mines need to be well-equipped to manage safety risks like fire and related emergencies. Fire Trucks 4 Africa sees this sustaining demand for a long-time.”
Thorough inspection and testing prior to delivery
A new fire truck undergoes an FAT (Final Acceptance Test). This includes practical operation of all facets of the fire truck and equipment. Some mines send a representative to the factory to report on the FAT. If this is not possible Fire Trucks 4 Africa videos the FAT and sends it to the mine.
New fire trucks are supplied with a 12 months warranty so any defects found in this period are rectified at no expense to the mine. Used fire trucks are given a practical test prior to delivery. A video and photos will be sent to the mine. Alternatively we suggest an independent inspection agency carry out an inspection and test before delivery. New ambulances supplied are built to accepted medical standards and the mine is given a complete breakdown of the production process.
Buying used fire trucks and ambulances
Used fire trucks and ambulances suitable for mines are difficult to find. Most European countries do not replace fire trucks with new models until they are 20 + years old. Very few countries have a need for 4×4 or 6×6 fire trucks. Those that do have them are fitted with small water tanks of around 2,000 litres as there is no shortage of hydrants or other water sources.
Fire Trucks 4 Africa can source a used fire truck and do offer them when budgets are very tight. However, used 4×4 ambulances are almost nonexistent, or have such high mileages that the company would never offer them. There are some ex-military Unimog and Land Rover ambulances available but they are usually around 30 years old and have very basic internal medical fittings.