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Fire Apparatus Dictionary => Odd and Unusual Rigs => Topic started by: HmaximS on May 22, 2004, 10:11:46 PM

Title: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: HmaximS on May 22, 2004, 10:11:46 PM
Where I grew up (Wareham, MA) this is not an unusual or odd rig. Many departments on Cape Cod had at least one (usually more). But I suppose outside the Cape Cod area it would be considered unusual. We called them brushbreakers. There are similar trucks in the New Jersey Pine Barrens where they are called Stumpjumpers, but the designs differ greatly I think. The original Cape Cod brushbreakers were developed in the 1930's by taking four wheel drive trucks and reinforcing the bumpers to knock down small trees. They have evolved into what you see here and are capable of knocking down trees that are up to a foot in diameter. (I'm not kidding, the sandy soil of the cape cod area doesn't allow most trees to get a good root system.)

This particular unit was an ex-military 1978 refurbished Kaiser that was bought through Memphis Equipment. EJ MUrphy built the rest with a pump and roll 250 gpm pump and 1000 gallon tank. These trucks could get deep into the woods. I have other photos of similar breakers with different manufacturers (Farrar, Maxim etc) as well as older and newer photos if anyones interested....
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: HmaximS on February 18, 2005, 10:38:27 AM
I've had some people ask me what the difference is between a brush breaker and a brush truck. Let me see if I can explain. The brushbreaker photos (the ones with barwork, or "iron") that I have posted all come from the same area in and around Cape Cod (Massachusetts) in Barnstable, Plymouth and Bristol counties.  The sandy soil doesn't allow tree roots to gain a good foothold, so they are easily knocked over with the appropriate amount of power. Here's a BRIEF  little history lesson.

The Cape Cod brushbreakers were developed in the 1930's and several departments all  claim to have designed the first one. The first brushbreakers were merely trucks with a second bumper mounted up higher than the original bumper. They have developed into what you see here on this thread. The higher bar (we'll call it the "A" bar) starts to knock the tree over while the lower bar (the "B" bar at bumper height) continues the push until the tree is completely horizontal and lying on the ground at which point the truck carefully drives over it. (please see the photo posted elsewhere on this thread of a breaker in action.)

There are hazards with this manuever and most experienced drivers know better that actually knocking over trees is a dangerous situation. For the most part, drivers tend to pick a path around trees, but its sometimes not an option.  Sometimes, trees up to a foot in diameter can be knocked down.  Some of the dangers include damaging your apparatus like snapping tie-rods, steering linkages and brake lines. All of these could potentially leave a truck broken down in the path of a firefront. A flank fire could quickly become a head fire with just a change in wind direction. Another hazard is a "widowmaker," or when the top of the tree snaps off and lands on top of the truck.  Hidden stumps and rocks also pose a danger to the undercarriage.

The trend lately has been to use former military trucks as the chassis of choice for building these rigs due to their designed ability to traverse tough terrain already.  However, if a department has a military truck that you use for woods fires that doesn't necessarily make it a brush breaker. The brush breaker got its name because it "breaks" a path into the woods if necessary. The military chassis are usually 2 1/2 ton or 5 ton. There are different schools of thought on these. Some think bigger is better.  Others think that heavier trucks sink faster and are less manueverable in tight areas.  I've seen both sizes and both have advantages and disadvantages.

Now - there is another place in the United States that uses this type of vehicle. This is in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and more recently out into Long Island, New York. These two areas have very similar terrain - sandy soil with small pitch pine trees and scrub oaks. However, the trucks in the NJ/NY area are referred to as Stumpjumpers and have taken on an identity of their own.

I hope this helps. If anyone wants to see some other great brush breaker photos and older Massachusetts wildfire photos, I suggest taking a peek at CapeCodFire.com. Britt has some excellent photos that show the history of the brushbreaker on Cape Cod as well some some nice photos of what its like to fight woods fires on Cape Cod. After seeing the photos, people may realize that some of the fires out in that area would rival those of the wildfires on the west coast - not in size, but in fire density and unpredictability due to the weather and terrain.

I can say that I have been to quite a few brush fires in my day, but I have only been to one of these large fires in 1989 and it was an experience I won't soon forget.  During the course of the day, we fought alot of fire, almost rolled our truck over, slightly damaged it backing up (which you try to avoid in the woods if at all possible) and had the pleasure of towing another disabled breaker out of the woods.  There were quite a few times I honestly questioned why I was there in the first place.
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: hoss on May 01, 2007, 06:29:16 PM
Out here in Berkshire County we run more of a brush truck type truck as our terrain is much more rocky and hilly. Here's my FD's (New Marlborough) Brush 6 has a 125 gpm/300 gallon water skid unit and hand tools in the bed. 1983 GM
(http://www.fireservicephotography.com/01_2007/010807/images/IMG_0618.jpg)
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: HmaximS on August 09, 2007, 04:06:22 PM
1956 Ford/Maynard breaker
Edgartown, MA (Martha's Vineyard)
Joe Klein photo/H Smith collection
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: paulromano on August 23, 2010, 08:22:01 PM
OK Howie, now I'm confused.  The color photo above of the 1952 Ford Farrar breaker from Wareham, when compared to the 1953 Ford Maxim breaker pictured below is very similar.  Would Wareham have purchased two breakers one year apart?  Looks like the breaker equipment was modified.  Maybe the right side and rear photos would help to solve the mystery since you must be familiar with the piece. (probably have it hidden under a tarp somewhere).

I'm sure you have the answer!!
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: MFDPhoto1 on August 24, 2010, 10:46:36 AM
I can't just sit here and look stupid, so I will ask so as to be enlightened. 

What was the "drill" to gain access to the cab...with the "barriers / skids" along each side, which I presume was to protect the rig from brush, etc.??   :-\
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: UpstateFire on August 24, 2010, 12:41:06 PM
If you close in the first pic you can see a hing so Im guessing that when they open the door to the cab it opened with the door or  you swing open the bar and open the door....I am polish so I could be wrong...ahahahah
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: MFDPhoto1 on August 24, 2010, 07:25:48 PM
Posted by: UpstateFire

Quote
If you close in the first pic you can see a hing so Im guessing that when they open the door to the cab it opened with the door or  you swing open the bar and open the door....I am polish so I could be wrong...ahahahah

Ya, I thought I saw a "hinge" on the "rail" too, and that would make sense...except, after you get in...how would you swing the "rail" BACK into position?  Maybe it took two...one to get in, then the another to close the "rail"?????  Being Polish has nothing to do with it...I love good Polish sausage   :D   :D
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: wfdstation42 on August 24, 2010, 08:07:34 PM
I see what appears to be the hinge BUT if you follow the bar back from that point the bar looks solid with no other cuts. So if that is a hinge where is the latch to open the bar?
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: paulromano on August 26, 2010, 07:10:01 AM
Good Questions!!  I rescanned the image using a higher resolution on the door area.  If the image uploads ok, you should be able to see the other break in the bar right below the gas tank cap.  Also, if you look closely at the door area just to the left of the lettering "ENGINE", you can see a shadow from the back of the breaker bar which I believe is an attachment from the door to the bar that automatically opens or closes the breaker bar as the door opens or closes.  Maybe Howie can confirm when he has a minute.
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: MFDPhoto1 on August 26, 2010, 08:03:43 AM
Thanks Paul...now I can see the how "it" operated and will be able to get a decent nights sleep again... :)
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: wfdstation42 on August 26, 2010, 09:25:47 PM
Another one of the worlds great mysteries solved. Thanks.
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: HmaximS on July 16, 2012, 07:25:25 PM
I havent been on here for a while, but the actual bar was attached to the door by a steel rod so when you opened the door, the bar hinged out with the door. However, it was quicklly found out that when you "rubbed" a few trees, it buckled the door, so the steel bar was removed and the bar had to be moved out manually before opening the door from the inside.
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: HmaximS on March 25, 2013, 10:18:57 AM
Does anyone know why I cant see any of the old photos?
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: Box 2565 on March 25, 2013, 02:00:55 PM
Does anyone know why I cant see any of the old photos?
When the site was changed to a new server a large group of older pictures were lost.  Some members have gone back and replaced their pictures while in other cases the posts have been deleted.
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: Buckeye53 on June 16, 2016, 10:04:15 AM
Coram, NY
Truck Co. 1 - 5-6-G11
1970 Kaiser Jeep 5 Ton # C12311663
1998 Shunk Body
250/1000
John Denney Photo 6/11/1016 @ Coram FD Station 1
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: Captmjm on August 17, 2016, 08:44:00 AM
West Tisbury MA. on Martha's Vineyard. No one available to provide me with specs the day I was there.
Title: Re: Massachusetts brushbreaker
Post by: brucobuff on August 17, 2016, 08:34:47 PM
West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Breaker 732  2006 Sterling/Bulldog Fire Apparatus  300/650/20  (Massfiretrucks.com)

Bulldog Fire Apparatus is the KME dealer for Massachusetts and also builds their own line of breakers. This company is the corporate descendant of Farrar, a legendary New England builder.