The Menlo Park Fire Protection District is looking into its future by checking out a new, all-electric fire engine that promises to cure a lot of ills that plague conventional diesel-powered fire trucks.
The vehicle, known as a Rosenbauer Concept Fire Truck, reduces exposure to diesel fumes, which are a known carcinogen; saves money by eliminating diesel fuel; virtually eliminates carbon emissions that cause climate change; and has fewer moving parts than conventional engines, resulting in lower maintenance costs, according to Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
An actual purchase of an all-electric truck might be a couple of years away, though, he acknowledged. "This is a concept truck; it's not in production at this time," he said.
The fire is district is holding an open house featuring a Rosenbauer prototype engine on Thursday, Dec. 12, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Fire Station 6, 700 Oak Grove Ave. in Menlo Park.
Range limits that make electric cars impractical for some drivers aren't a major deterrent to using electric firetrucks in urban fire districts such as Menlo Park because more than 90% of all responses by firefighters, such as medical incidents, last only a short time, Schapelhouman added.
As a backup, the all-electric engine has an extra battery system and a small booster motor for local fire calls and other incidents involving longer response times, he said.
The major drawback of the all-electric truck is that it would have limited use in the case of providing aid in out-of-town emergencies, such as wildfires, since the batteries need to be recharged at the fire station, according to Schapelhouman.
"We'd be using (one) locally for short-distance responses," he said.
Eliminating diesel fumes has a clear benefit to firefighters, since the fumes are a known carcinogen, Schapelhouman said, adding, "We're trying to be a lot more careful about (diesel) exposures and what we could do to improve working conditions in acquiring new equipment."
The district is in its third and final year of replacing its entire fleet of eight diesel fire engines, which are used in "front-line" service for about 10 years, he said.
The agency keeps eight engines in front-line service at a time and four or five in reserve for use in emergencies, he said.
Rosenbauer is headquartered in Austria and has factories in South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska, according to the company's website.