Portland Buys Electric Fire Engine

Photo: Ford, Brad

Portland Fire & Rescue will hold a traditional “push-in” ceremony for their newest fire engine on Monday.

In the fall of 2021, PF&R entered a Joint Development Agreement with Pierce Manufacturing, an Osh Kosh Corporation Company, to place a Volterra, a zero-emissions fire engine (also known as a pumper), into service in the downtown core of Portland at Fire Station 1. This is only the second Pierce Volterra fire engine placed into service thus far nationwide. The location, geographic variances, weather, and run volume of Station 1’s Fire Management Area--along with the historical relationship between PF&R with this fire apparatus manufacturer--aligned well with Pierce’s goal of improving the development of this new technology and will be the first step toward PF&R placing an emergency response apparatus into service that assists in meeting the City of Portland’s Climate Action Plan.

The Pierce Volterra is a 42,000-pound GVW fire engine that has the capacity to seat 6 firefighters, with an onboard 500-gallon water tank and a single stage, 1500 GPM pump. For all intents and purposes in both appearance and operational capability, this fire engine is identical to the rest of the diesel-powered fleet in service by PF&R. The difference is the patented parallel-electric drivetrain-- featuring an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission, which allows zero-emissions operation in most operational situations when powered by the integrated onboard batteries. These batteries can be charged to full capacity by a fire station-based vehicle charging infrastructure that is capable of full electric fire engine recharge is less than 90 minutes. This battery-powered system is coupled with an internal combustion engine, which provides continuous and uninterrupted power to the pumping system or drive system as needed. The internal combustion engine is leveraged only for back-up power during extended emergency operations.

Another benefit to this addition of the Volterra to our fleet of emergency response vehicles is reduced firefighter exposure to known carcinogenic toxins encountered in diesel exhaust fumes. With too many firefighters succumbing to cancer because of exposures to carcinogens over the course of decades-long careers in the fire service, the introduction of the Pierce Volterra is an important step taken by the City of Portland and Portland Fire & Rescue to reduce the incidences of cancer in all current and future members of PF&R. 

The history of placing a new fire apparatus into service by pushing it backward into the apparatus bay has historical ties to the days when all apparatus were drawn to emergency scenes by teams of horses. Horses are incapable of backing up, so returning an apparatus to the bay in the fire station was always the work of the crew of firefighters on duty. This traditional push-in ceremony has continued within the fire service, even with the advent of internal combustion powered rigs and the ability to reverse under power.

Source: Portland Fire & Rescue

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