The Recipe for a New Fire Engine – An Update on Marshfield’s New Apparatus

Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department will soon have a new tool to help them fight fires – a new Fire Engine. The engine bid was awarded to Pierce Manufacturing, Inc by the Marshfield Police & Fire Commission at their January 10 meeting, based on the Appleton company’s bid and ability to meet the specifications designed to fulfill the department’s needs.

Being a unique piece of machinery, the process of obtaining a new fire engine is a lengthy one and begins with developing specs.

“When we go out for spec for any type of new vehicle that we have here, we develop specs based on our needs,” said Marshfield Fire & Rescue (MFRD) Chief Scott Owen. “Because of the complex nature of fire apparatus, departments typically use a spec writer from manufacturers to help develop these specs. With this particular one, we had Pierce in to help us write specs based on what we need here, which is an engine that can be easily maintained in-house, meets our fire suppression requirements, and fits within the fire station.”

For example, the proposed engine could not be longer than 33 feet, because of the station’s garage capacity.

After the specs are prepared, they are adjusted to be generic enough that any manufacturer can submit a bid. This prevents the spec writer from having an advantage in the bid process.

“Once we finalized the specs, making sure there was no proprietary language and were generic enough to the point that even if there were specific items mentioned, they are available to any manufacturer,” said Owen. “As long as they could meet what we deemed the ‘critical things’, anyone could bid on it.”

After “cleaning” the specs, interested companies are given several weeks to review the specs and determine whether they want to make a bid.

After receiving (in this case, two) bids, a MFRD committee reviews the specs and compares them to the bids. This is a several-day process of going through the specs line by line, not counting the additional staffing time spent prior to prepare for the review.

“We made note of things that didn’t meet the spec in both the Pierce and the Stainless & Repair spec,” said Owen. “There were several items that didn’t meet our specs. Some of them exceeded, but some did not even meet the requirements. It was a lengthy process.”

“In the end, when we compared everything, Pierce met our needs here for protecting the City better than the other bid,” he added. “It’s a very specific rig to meet what we need to do here for the City. The safety and wellbeing of our citizens is our priority when we look at rigs. We look at what is going to be the best match for our department to protect our community.”

After the bid was awarded on January 10, MFRD representatives set a time to meet with Stainless & Repair, with whom they have a longstanding relationship, to review the spec, show their bid differences, and explain why they were not selected for this particular engine.

“We were never afforded the opportunity to sit down with the fire department and the committee to say, we checked ‘no,’ but this is why we checked ‘no’,” said Derek Backaus, VP of Stainless & Repair. “We were never afforded the ability to go and say, look, we can make these changes.”

Learn more about Stainless & Repair here:

“We do value the partnership that we have with Stainless & Repair, and it’s a matter of hoping that they understand our process and what we’re looking for,” said Owen. “It was not in our best interest to get the piece of equipment they bid.”

“We would have loved for it to have worked out where Stainless could have supplied us with the rig we needed and stayed local, but unfortunately that didn’t happen with this engine,” he added. “Maybe in the future, it will happen. We do have that good working relationship with them and will continue to build that in the future. We take all of our fire apparatus and ambulances there for service and they do great work. It was a business decision that we went with Pierce.”

Owen compares the situation to car-buying. If a consumer wants a certain car, but it’s not available through a local dealership, they might need to venture to another neighboring community.

“It’s the same concept. If you’re not happy with something, you’re going to go somewhere else,” he said.

Owen and department staff are excited to continue the process of acquiring a new, much-needed engine.

“We’re excited to have a new engine to serve the city with. It’s not often that all of the fire rigs are out on a call, but it doesn’t happen where we have two fires at the same time, or the magnitude of the Central Ave fire or Wesley Church Fire,” said Owen.

“Our current Engine #3 is almost 34 years old now. It has served its purpose here. It should have been replaced 10 years ago, but it kept getting pushed back. Now it’s to the point that the cost to maintain it is not worth it,” he added. “It needs valves replaced. It has pump issues. It’s starting to have engine issues. We don’t trust it enough on a large scene to be a useful piece of equipment.”

(Engine #3 is part of an equipment update that began with the T1 implementation last year.)