DNR fire engines: In-house customization saves money while building in durability, versatility and safety

DNR fire engine

Using a standard Chevy medium duty truck chassis, DNR technicians fabricated numerous components to create a fire engine suitable for off-road, wildland fire fighting. Photo: DNR

The last of 12 fire engines built by DNR this year rolled out of our Tumwater Compound workshop last week. The Compound, near the Olympia Airport, is the site of a creative approach to providing equipment that protects lives and property from wildfire while stretching scarce state funds. The approach is to build it yourself using a mix of stock and custom fabricated parts.

To defend nearly 13 million acres of widely variable terrain — from semi-arid scrublands to dense temperate forests — from wildfire requires a versatile and durable vehicle. DNR has found that using stock equipment, adding quality components, and customizing special features produces a fire engine capable of dependable off-road use anywhere in the state. This approach not only simplifies the parts inventory, it also avoids the expense of training firefighters and mechanics to work on multiple variations of the equipment.

While wildland fire engines can be found elsewhere, the designs that federal firefighting agencies use tend to be more complex and expensive to maintain than what DNR needs. After looking at the wildland fire engines available on the commercial market, the department concluded that modifying a standard commercial medium-duty truck chassis, such as the Chevy Kodiak, was the most affordable way to get the wildland fire engines it needs.

Here’s a blog explaining how DNR builds its fire engines, including many of the specifications used to produce them.

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