Iowa-American Phase II Hawk Prototype, Charlotte (NC) Truck 13

“HOOD ORNAMENTS.”  The tools found on the front bumpers of a rig are an interesting subject in their own right. Other than the make, color, markings, lighting, and maybe the function of a unit’s front end, the tools mounted on the bumper often give a first-time visitor their first impression of a station or department. They’re sometimes a pretty good representation of the character of the crews that staff them. Are they traditionalists or early-adopters of the latest fads? Are the tools clean, dirty, or dusty? Do they look like they’ve been burnished by frequent use or never been used? Are they freshly painted, labeled, claimed by station or department markings, stickers, lettering, or “uglied up” to discourage misappropriation by others? What do they have to say about the people who ride their unit?

It’s hard to imagine all of the reasons why a specific tool (or set of tools) might be selected for this special status. But, a few explanations are:

  • They came mounted there when the unit was delivered.
  • The bumper is the only place they’ll fit or can be removed easily.
  • They are the most frequently used items.
  • They are important “must-have” parts of a set of tools/equipment that deploys from the front.
  • They’re the favorites of a particular station, crew, crew member or officer.
  • They’re scarce examples of “signature” tools that were once hallmarks of local operations but are no longer available.
  • They somehow symbolize the unit or crews mission, objectives, attitudes, identity, shared experiences, etc. and can, in a way, be likened to “hood ornaments” on a car, signaling information about the vehicle, its functions, and its occupants.

In general, the tools found there are selected because they address the highest priorities or most common functions addressed by the crew.  So, in some stations the front-mount tools change every time the crew changes, reflecting individual or group differences. One shift may reflect a group of traditionalists who prefer a few proven, multifunctional “classics.” The next crew– maybe a group of “early adopters”– might switch them out for the latest new tools on the market, and so forth.

But, policies concerning equipping can vary considerably from station-to-station and department-to-department.  So, if a rig’s front bumper arsenal stays the same day-after-day that may indicate that it’s prescribed and regulated by the department. It might indicate that a crew/department has, over time, refined, standardized and policed its equipping. At the other extreme, be a sign of ambivalence. Who knows? But, it can be a source of interesting speculation.

PHASE II HAWK ON CHARLOTTE’S TRUCK 13.  An excellent first example of both front bumper tool loads and vintage Hawk prototypes in the field was found in a photo of Charlotte, North Carolina’s rearmount aerial, Truck 13 (Photos are from Charlotte Fire Department & Station 13 web sites).

As pictured at the time, on their 2004 Spartan/Smeal (in the bottom photo above), Truck Company 13 mounted a six-foot NY Roof Hook and a four-foot Hawk Phase II prototype with a large aluminum D-handle. In comparison to a Halligan/NY Roof Hook’s narrow profile and blunt point, the photo above shows the Phase II Hawk prototype’s sharper, more focused penetrating tip and wider lower “chopping” blade to good advantage. What is particularly eye-catching are the wide, bold color identification markings on the tools and their apparent high maintenance level.

It certainly isn’t clear (or expected) that the Hawk prototype was a standard fixture on Truck 13’s bumper set. On a busy rig, a tool is lucky to get a ride on the front, at all– never mind finding a spot as a regular. In fact, one gets the impression from photos of Truck 13’s 2015 Spartan/Smeal replacement, that tools may no longer be carried on the front bumper. Nevertheless, its a good day for us every time we receive a photo of one of our tools earning a front-row seat.  Greetings and thanks to Charlotte’s Truck 13!

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