London Fire Brigade appliances

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A breathing apparatus tender that was in service with the LFB from 1994 to 2007.

The London Fire Brigade, one of the largest fire and rescue services in the world, operates a large and diverse fleet of vehicles, known as appliances, all carrying a varied range of specialised equipment and apparatus for use in firefighting and rescue operations.

From 2002 to 2010, the LFB replaced much of its older fleet of appliances, which were typically based on Volvo FL chassis, with modernised Mercedes-Benz Atego vehicles. This included over 200 new Mercedes fire engines, command units, and other support vehicles.

Dual-purpose ladder[edit]

A 1995-registered Volvo dual-purpose pump/ladder
2007-registered Mercedes dual-purpose pump/ladder

The dual-purpose ladder (DPL) is the standard fire engine deployed to all 999 emergency calls by the London Fire Brigade. There are 102 DPL's in operation across the city, with 45 in reserve and 25 used for training purposes.

The DPL typically carries 13.5 m and/or 9 m ladder extensions, eight 18 m lengths of hose-reel tubing, four 23 m lengths of 45 mm hose, ten 23 m lengths of 70 mm hose, cutting equipment, a portable generator, a lightweight portable pump, water-packs, inflatable airbags, road signs, floodlights, a medical kit, hose ramps, general tools, chemical suits and breathing apparatus. At fire stations with two DPLs, one will be a 'pump' and the other a 'pump ladder', both carrying a short extension ladder and cat ladder for climbing roofs. The pump carries the 9 m ladder, the pump ladder carries the 13.5 m, whilst stations with only one DPL will carry both.

DPLs weigh around 11.2 tonnes, and are approximately 7.7 m long, 2.3 m wide and 3.2 m high. They carry up to 1,365 litres of water and have a pumping capacity of 3,910 l/min.

Between 2002 and 2007 a new fleet of over 200 Mercedes-Benz Atego vehicles were delivered to fire stations, training centres and driving schools throughout London with new TVAC Plastisol bodywork. They replaced the existing fleet of Volvo FL 6.14s with Saxon Sanbec bodywork.

All fire engines carry first aid equipment, including defibrillators. The introduction of first aid capability and training – known as Immediate Emergency Care (IEC) – mean that as part of normal duties firefighters attending incidents will be prepared to treat casualties who need immediate medical care until paramedics arrive to take over.[1]

Aerial appliances[edit]

Before the introduction of new aerial appliances in 2002-2007, the LFB typically used hydraulic platforms like this 1996-registered Volvo FL.

The LFB currently uses two main types of aerial appliances: the aerial ladder platform (ALP) and the turntable ladder (TL). Based on the Mercedes-Benz Econic chassis, they are used for high-rise fires and rescues, aerial water dousing and other specialised requirements.

The present fleet consists of four TLs and seven ALPs, with five more ALPs kept spare as reserves, and one used at the Brigade's training centre in Southwark.

The ALP's platform can carry up to four firefighters and reach a height of 32 m; a monitor in the cage can deliver up to 2,400 litres of water per minute.

Fire rescue unit[edit]

Fire rescue unit

A fire rescue unit (FRU) is a specialist heavy-rescue vehicle.

The FRUs are equipped with heavy lifting, winching, cutting and pulling tools, floodlighting, longer-duration breathing apparatus (vital for rescuing people from tunnels deep underground, for example), portable generators and other specialised equipment. FRU crews are specially trained and equipped to handle complex rescues, including those from road and rail accidents, water, mud and ice, urban search and rescue incidents such as collapsed buildings, chemical spills and difficult rescues at height.

Nine of the Brigade's fleet of FRUs were mobilised to the 7/7 bombings in 2005 and after the attacks the LFB increased its number of FRUs from 10 (including one reserve) to 16. In 2014 this was reduced to 14.

Command support unit[edit]

2007-registered command support unit

Command support units (CSU) will be deployed to any incident that has more than four fire crews on scene and they are a vehicle from which senior officers can control the incident and have the latest computer and radio technology fitted to allow them to do this, including two large plasma screens (one inside, one outside) for viewing footage or CCTV of the ongoing situation with a 6 m mast and generator.

There are nine of these vehicles (one reserve) placed at strategic locations across London so that one can reach any incident within 20 minutes. A fundamental advantage of specialised CSUs is to accommodate the many different types of communication equipment needed at major incidents. In addition to the wide range of radio frequencies used, the brigade often need to communicate via landlines and mobile telephones, as well as send and receive information via satellite links and CCTV.

Fire investigation unit[edit]

Fire investigation unit, registered in 2006

A fire investigation unit (FIU) generally attends fires and incidents where the cause is unknown or thought to be suspicious, and is crewed by specially-trained experts acting in assistance to police investigations.

Until June 2010 Acton and East Ham stations each had two FIUs, while New Cross had three. They have all now been moved to a fire investigation headquarters at Dowgate station in the City where they are all able to be mobilised citywide. The vehicles are specially-adapted Volkswagen Transporters.

In addition, Dowgate is also the base of the brigade's fire investigation dog unit. This unique vehicle is manned by members of the arson response team and can transport one of the LFB's four specially-trained search dogs.

At the scene of incidents, a fire investigation dog wears specialist protective 'fire wellies' on his or her paws to guard against injuries from broken glass or hot material. The dogs can detect minute quantities of hydrocarbon accelerants within minutes. This procedure would normally take a human fire investigator - using specialist equipment - hours before samples can be taken away for scientific evidence. [2]

Operational support unit[edit]

Operational support unit

New operational support units (OSU) were purchased in 2008, each costing £43,800 and replacing a number of aging vehicles such as damage control tenders and breathing apparatus tenders. Six of these vehicles are based at specially-designated operational support stations; a seventh is stored as a reserve. The OSUs provide initial emergency attendance, taking specialist supporting equipment, such as large quantities of breathing apparatus or damage control and salvage gear, to incidents.

A number of palletised and transferable loads are stored at the operational support stations. These pallets can then be requested by incident commanders as required, and would be loaded on to the OSU to be taken to the fireground.

Bulk foam unit[edit]

A bulk foam unit (BFU) may be summoned to incidents that require a large amount of foam to support operations involving large-scale flammable liquid fires. An example would be a plane crash or chemical fire where a major foam attack would be undertaken.

The LFB currently operates three of these vehicles, based at Sutton, Finchley and Barking. Based on the Mercedes-Benz Actros, they can transport a variety of fuel firefighting media and application equipment in eight 1,000-litre containers or on 1-tonne pallets. These can be removed from the transporter by a forklift truck and transported around the fireground as required. Two stillages carried on the bed of the vehicle provide stowage for ancillary equipment including foam generators and monitors.

The Mercedes vehicles replaced three existing Volvo appliances which had been in operation for 15 years.

Hose layer unit[edit]

Hose layer units (HLU) house large-capacity high-pressure hose wagons and respond to incidents where hydrants or other water sources are not close enough to the fireground and firefighters are hampered by a lack of water. The vehicle will lay out its hose at the nearest hydrant or open source, and then drive to the fireground with the hose laying off the back. Upon arrival it will connect to a standard appliance to supply it with the water needed for the firefighting operations.

The HLU may also be used to remove large amounts of water from an incident ground, such as a flood.

There are four HLUs, the new ones being registered between 2010-2011, stationed at strategic locations across London, at Barking, Kingston upon Thames, Beckenham and Harrow.

Incident response unit[edit]

2003-registered incident response unit

An incident response unit (IRU) is a government-supplied decontamination vehicle that was introduced in the wake of the September 11 attacks as part of a scheme for equipping UK brigades with extensive disaster response vehicles for any major catastrophe or terrorist attack.

A forklift truck is mounted on the rear of the lorry, and is used to remove the equipment cages from the curtain-side.

Equipment includes disrobe and rerobe packs for before and after casualty decontamination; 48 gastight suits; tent structures raised by hot-air blowers; decontamination showers powered by a water boiler and supplied by a submersible pump (decontaminated water is dammed); a telescopic lighting unit; mobile data transmission; GPS mapping and radiation monitoring devices.

High-volume pumping unit[edit]

A high-volume pumping unit (HVP) is a large appliance supplied by the government to UK fire brigades, as part of the scheme to equip the fire services to respond to large-scale disasters and terrorist attacks.

It carries a submersible pump, supplying water from any open source to the fireground, a generator that pumps up to 8,000 l/min (twice as much as a typical standard fire engine), a hose box module, and ancillary equipment.

London currently has nine of these HVPs.

Outside of London, these vehicles proved invaluable in response to widespread flooding in 2007.

Urban search and rescue[edit]

Also as part of the New Dimension scheme a range of specialised fire and rescue vehicles were supplied to fire brigades around the UK.

These include the IRU, HVP and a range of other urban search and rescue (USAR) vehicles.

The first USAR "module" is primarily for building collapse rescue. It is a heavy-rescue truck carrying apparatus to gain access to and explore voids/spaces after a structural collapse, as well as binoculars, digital cameras, core drills, electrical tools, angle grinders, search cameras, communications equipment, life detectors, timber cutters, and lighting.

Another type of USAR module is a truck carrying a multi-purpose vehicle for removing debris from a disaster site and disposing of this onto the truck. It also carries a large inflatable tent for sheltering equipment.

Finally, a flatbed lorry carrying 10 tonnes of C16-grade timber can used to support unstable structures that may collapse.

Scientific support unit[edit]

Scientific support unit

Scientific support units (SSU) are specialised vehicles carrying a vast amount of chemical monitoring equipment.

Purchased in late 2005 following the 7/7 bombings, an SSU can attend a wide range of incidents, including chemical spills and fires, where early on-site scientific analysis and monitoring will speed up the detection process and allow the Brigade and other emergency services to provide the correct response for the particular incident.

Until their arrival, the brigade had not been able to adequately undertake enhanced scientific analysis for chemical, biological and radiological testing at the scene. These durable and future-proof vehicles are fully upgraded to respond to a range of incidents including those where forensic fire investigators request the use of a mobile facility to enhance both public and firefighter safety.

The only two of these vehicles in the Brigade are stationed at Poplar and Hammersmith.[3]

Heavy distribution unit[edit]

In 2010 the Brigade purchased a heavy distribution unit (HDU), a Mercedes-Benz Actros flatbed lorry used for general distribution of bulk equipment to major incidents.

All-terrain unit[edit]

The Brigade's only six-wheel drive all-terrain unit is an adapted Land Rover based at Biggin Hill. It may be mobilised to incidents in the rural outskirts of London where normal appliances may struggle with access to the fireground.

Instant response vehicle[edit]

In 2012, the LFB purchased five Mini Countrymans for conversion into instant response vehicles. The two-seat cars are fitted with six extinguishers (two each of water, foam and powder), plus a first-aid kit and defibrillator, and may be deployed to investigate automatic alarms actuating and smaller fires such as those in rubbish bins which do not require a full-sized engine and crew. The brigade has indicated a wish to add more smaller vehicles to its fleet, including crossover utility vehicles like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 which could be fitted with water pumps, breathing apparatus and pull-out equipment drawers, and with enough space for four firefighters.[4]

Fireboat[edit]

One of London's two fireboats

London's two fireboats are called Fireflash and Firedart, both based at the Lambeth river station. Firedart is used in daily operation, while Fireflash is reserved for training exercises and a spare.

Built in 1999 by Northumberland-based shipbuilder Alnmaritec, they are used for a variety of incidents, such as people stranded in the River Thames, fires on boats, crashed boats, and riverside property on fire.

Summary of operational appliances[edit]

Appliance No. in operation No. in reserve Vehicle model
Dual-purpose ladder 102 45 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1325F
Pump 55 0 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1325F
Urban search and rescue prime-movers 27 0 MAN 23.363
Fire rescue unit 16 3 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1325F
Incident response unit 10 0 MAN 23.360
Command support unit 8 1 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1223NR
Aerial ladder platform 7 5 Mercedes-Benz Econic/Magirus
Instant response vehicle 5 0 Mini Countryman
Fire investigation unit 6 0 Volkswagen Transporter T30
Operational support unit 6 1 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1223NR
Turntable ladder 4 0 Mercedes-Benz Econic/Magirus
Hose layer unit 4 1 Mercedes-Benz Atego
Bulk foam unit 3 0 Mercedes-Benz Actros
Scientific support unit 2 0 Mercedes-Benz Atego 1223
Fire investigation dog unit 1 0 Volkswagen Transporter T30
Heavy distribution unit 1 0 Mercedes-Benz Actros
All-terrain unit 1 0 Land Rover
Fireboat 1 1 Alnmaritec

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