Hamilton, Ontario, Gets "Urban Pumper" Right-Sized for Urban Streets

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©. Hamilton Fire Department

The city is getting bike lanes and light rail transit, and their new apparatuses are chosen to better fit the streetscape.

A few years ago I wondered why our streets were designed around fire trucks, instead of having our fire trucks sized around streets. Some commenters asked how dare I criticise these men and women who are risking their lives to save ours, and know what they need to do their job.

But sometimes, their needs change. I learned via a tweet from Head of City Planning Jason Thorne that Hamilton, Ontario, downsized some of their firefighting apparatuses, and took delivery of their first "urban pumper." At his suggestion I contacted Fire Chief David R. (Dave) Cunliffe to find out why.

Chief Cunliffe told me that he was born and raised in Hamilton, and is now seeing it going through a growth period. (This is an understatement. I know a lot of people who have moved from Toronto, an hour to the east, in search of more affordable housing.) He noted that Hamilton is changing.

More bike lanes, more pedestrian traffic, a new Light Rail Transit system is coming. We are trying to deliver a service and at the end of the day we don't want to be obstructionist, but more proactive."

KME Group via Hamilton Fire Department

© Hamilton Fire Department

Chief Cunliffe noted that these are 20-year purchases, there are more coming, and they are "on path to better fit the streetscapes."

These are not cute little Euro-sized apparatuses, but they are shorter and have smaller turning radii than conventional equipment. I asked if there were any tradeoffs and was told that they are "actually better for firefighters, they are lower and equipment is easier to reach, they are better ergonomically."

King Street Hamilton

Lloyd Alter/ King Street, Hamilton/CC BY 2.0

I have often written about Hamilton; it is such an interesting small city. It has geography (a great location close to the American border in one direction, Toronto in the other), a great big harbour that is now quite beautiful, topography (a nice "mountain" that keeps it from being boring), a major university, and great transportation connections. It also is full of some of the scariest five-lane car sewers I have seen anywhere.

templar flats Front

Lloyd Alter/ Templar Flats /CC BY 2.0

But as Chief Cunliffe notes, it's now got bike lanes, LRTs and bigger sidewalks. It has some of the smartest urban activists I have met anywhere. It's got interesting new buildings and they are fixing up old buildings. It's changing, and so are its fire apparatuses. This is all such good news.

And since Fire Chief Cunliffe puts this on his signature line, we will put it here:

Please ensure that you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home... they could save your life!