Chris Ferrara, CEO of Ferrara Fire Apparatus, tells International Fire Buyer about the company’s revolutionary and game-changing new aerial product, the SKYFLOW
First of all, we are really excited about the upcoming FDIC show. We will be unveiling a brand new product that is built from the ground-up. It’s a new aerial device and industrial pumper that we are calling the SKYFLOW. It will be the largest water-delivery device anywhere in the world. The water capability at the end of the aerial will exceed 5,000 gallons per minute. It has been designed for industrial use around the world, as well as municipalities that need a high water flow from an aerial device. The product is a mid-mounted aerial that extends about 100 feet upwards. You can imagine flowing 5,000 gallons of water that high in the air is something that is unheard of in the industry. This has been in the making for over three years.
In addition to that, we have partnered with US Fire Pump and now not only do we have the highest flow rate, but we also have the most powerful pump available. It’s a rear-mounted pump design that can deliver in excess of 5,250 gallons from draught; from a pressurised source it can deliver over 10,000 gallons per minute, which is quite extraordinary. We debuted this product, called the Inundator, at Interschutz last year.
It was a product from a scratch piece of paper. We had to design a chassis that could handle such a pump, and an aerial hat could take the stress and loads of that amount of water. You can’t just take a regular aerial chassis and expect it to handle such a large design without any modification. The handrails have to be thicker, the overlaps in the aerial section have to be wider and thicker, so there has been a lot of engineering that has been put into this product to make it work as we want it to.
It’s been a complete re-engineering from the ground up. It’s based on foam technology, so we can flow 5,000 gallons per minute out of the aerial utilising foam capability. Then, from all the other discharges on the fire truck we can flow at 10,000 gallons a minute. This is unheard of in the industry, whether it’s industrial or municipal use. In addition to having a monitor that can handle 5,000 gallons per minute on the aerial device, we have two large monitors on the rear of the vehicle, which can deliver 2,000 gallons per minute each; if you look at the water flow capability of the product, you are looking at 9,000 gallons per minute from one vehicle and a pressurised source.
And it has all been designed and built in-house?
That’s correct, yes. It’s a very important thing for Ferrara that we do that, because we can set our own destiny by doing all the engineering ourselves. We listen to our customers as well – if you are looking for potential markets for this product, we don’t just see it being used for large industrial applications, but also large municipalities. Take the large Dubai fires recently; the whole side of those skyscrapers was on fire, so an extra 100 feet of aerial capability, plus 300-400 feet of thrown water from that aerial would make a monumental difference.
Like any business, every customer is important. We listen to their needs and capabilities. With larger industrial facilities with bigger storage tanks and buildings, for example, you need excess water flow to put out the fires on the scale they get there. Having a truck that can flow 10,000 gallons per minute, which the Inundator can offer, can make all the difference. That product in particular has really taken the industry by storm. We have had requests from all over the world asking about it, and have been successful in selling a significant number already. We are really excited that through our collaboration with US Fire Pump we have been able to take this offering to a whole other level.
We are considered the leader in industrial fire truck design and flow technology, and are always looking for new ideas and technologies. For this reason, we are very excited about the SKYFLOW, which is shaping up to be a unique product that will appeal globally. The functionality of the truck is an added bonus. For example, we have mounted a thermal imaging camera onto tip of the aerial, meaning we can offer added insight about hot spots or trapped individuals, 100 feet up in the air. Not only does the aerial deliver extinguishing capabilities, but it can also offer thermal imaging protection on top of that.
Is the need for extra technology on the vehicles something that you are seeing industry-wide?
You need to start looking at other applications – what can this vehicle be used for other that as a water-driven aerial fire-fighting device? To a large extent this will be customer-driven; you have to sit down with them and determine what other capabilities they may be looking for. Even in a terrorist situation, you can put the aerial up and use the camera to look over the surrounding area, or use thermal imaging to watch people movement. There is a lot more capability to the truck than just fire-fighting, and that’s something that we try to think about with all the new products we build.
How important is your partnership with US Fire Pump, and the ability to leverage their expertise and combine it with yours?
We work hand-in-hand with their engineers, and we really value our partnership with them. The company has many years of pump design experience and it makes for a very good collaboration. We are leading the field with designs that people said couldn’t be built. When you look at the products we have today, people five years ago would never have believed that a fire truck could pump over 10,000 gallons per minute – that would be unheard of!
We have some doubters out there, but every truck that we manufacture at our facility in Louisiana is UL-tested and inspected. It carries all the certification for its pumping capabilities and flow rates. We feel that the UL brand is recognised the world over, and choose to use them for their professionalism and expertise.
How do you see the medium- to long-term goals of Ferrara Fire Apparatus?
US Fire Pump, in conjunction with us, will use FDIC to unveil a new submersible unit that can be deployed off of a vehicle and a hose pick-up device. The submersible pumps can either be packaged as a dual submersible that can flow over 6,500 gallons per minute, or as a standalone that can flow 10,000 gallons per minute, providing a pump relay capability.
How important is FDIC as a show for Ferrara and the wider industry?
It’s definitely the largest show for us here in the States, and the place where we unveil our products that we have been working on for that year. This year, as well as the SKYFLOW and the US Fire Pump submersibles, we will be demonstrating our new front airbags in the Inferno chassis. These are being fitted to a Houston Fire Department aerial truck that we’ll be delivering in April and it will be on display at FDIC with side impact, frontal and knee airbags in the cab.
We will also be showcasing our MVP product. Over the years, we have refined this to become the ultimate all-in-one fire vehicle. It contains everything you will need to bring to a fire scene, from rescue tools to foam capability to water rescue to high-rise rescue to first aid and so on. The MVP is a very hot product for us, in this age of budget restraints. If a Fire Department needs an all-in-one solution, we can offer it. It’s a winner!
Do you think driver safety is something the industry needs to look more closely at?
We have the heaviest cab out there in the industry, and the heaviest chassis, so this trends to a large extent towards our aims. This is what we are all about: Safe, durable products that continue our tradition. From the very start, we have been based around the needs of the fire-fighter. I was a fire-fighter myself, and the whole management team has worked in the emergency services, so all our products are built by fire-fighters, for fire-fighters. There are not too many companies like ours left any more.
About Ferrara Fire Apparatus
Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Inc. custom manufactures a complete line of fire, emergency and rescue vehicles. The custom chassis selection includes the Ultra, Inferno, Igniter and Cinder. The Ultra is unique, available with either a 3/16” thick aluminium or 3CR12 stainless steel cab. Their line of apparatus includes custom and commercial pumpers and tankers, rear and mid-mount aerial ladders and platforms, walk in and walk around rescues, incident command trucks and trailers and the Inundator high flow industrial apparatus. A leading innovator in the industry, Ferrara takes pride in offering such firefighter safety items such as the MVP Heavy Rescue Pumper and Aerial Quint, On-Site Tilt Table Testing, Cab and Body ECE-29 Crash Testing, Independent Front Suspension, Complete Airbag Protection, and SmartWheel steering systems.