OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Oakland Fire Department is stepping into the modern age of fire safety. "Unlike other departments that are strictly metropolitan based, we have to be capable to do it all," says Oakland Fire Battalion Chief James Bowron.
The city of Oakland purchased new fire trucks specifically to battle wildland fires for the first time in two decades. "It’s been 20 years, so we're still using those apparatus we've kept them up and used them to the best of our ability but now it’s time to upgrade our apparatus so we can handle the demands," says Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Erik Logan.
Back in 1991, the Oakland hills fire was the largest wildland urban interface fire in the Bay Area's history. The fire killed 25 and destroying thousands of homes. Shortly after that the city purchased this and similar trucks.
But now the department is trading it and three other trucks. For the newer state of the art vehicles with more updated bells and whistles.
"We're just getting a better ride, better radios, better lighting, better ground clearance, just a lot of features that make it a more well-rounded apparatus," says Bowron.
The old trucks were made to only seat two. However, the new ones not only double that number, it also provides added safety. "We can be more effective and efficient if we get into those areas with all our personnel instead of half our personnel," says Logan.
"Should situations change we were going to have to squeeze four people basically into a single cab, now we have the ability to put all four people in one apparatus," says Bowron.
The trucks will also be used for mutual aid fires statewide, as well as when a protest turns destructive and dangerous. "So how so will we see these on the roads in Oakland? These are going to be within the next week," says Bowron.
Also trucks like these are better equipped to battle fast moving fires. Unlike a structure, a vegetation fire has no borders. "It’s driven by wind fuels and the topography it can move rapidly. With the pump and roll it gives us the ability to hopefully drive and move with the fire so we can put fire out," says Bowron.
Within the next couple of weeks, Oakland Fire Department will install graffiti proof signs on trail access gates. It’s similar to a mile marker or an address. That way if a person needs help they can tell the fire department exactly where they're located.
"It’s just another way for us to get more information so we can pinpoint so we can send the right apparatus and be able to help mitigate the emergency a little bit quicker," says Bowron.
On top of that, the department is trading in its old school hand drawn maps system for these new color ones that use GPS. That way the crew can better see canyons and valleys when they travel off road. Just in time for fire season which is a few weeks away.