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SF Fire Department Unveils a New Truck Better Adapted to Safe Street Designs

San Francisco’s new truck is designed to turn in less distance. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Yesterday afternoon, journalists and advocates were given a first look at Fire Engine 13, assigned to the station on the corner of Washington and Sansome in San Francisco's Financial District. "This fire engine is narrower, not as long, and has a better turning radius," said San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White. "It's a beautiful piece of equipment."

During a low-key presser at the financial district station house, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Chief Joanne Hayes-White, and SFBC's Brian Wiedenmeier talked about the new truck.
During a low-key presser at the financial district station house, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Chief Joanne Hayes-White, and SFBC's Brian Wiedenmeier talked about the new truck.
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The new engine, one of eight that will be deployed in the city, is ten inches shorter than the old trucks it is replacing, and can make a u-turn in just 25 feet, explained Hayes-White. According to a release from Supervisor Aaron Peskin's office, it was built to adapt to San Francisco’s evolving urban streetscape and Vision Zero goals. It also boasts a screen and cameras that give a 360-degree view to help look out for potential pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile conflicts. Deputy Chief Anthony Rivera demonstrated the screen to Streetsblog--it automatically changes view depending on whether the engine is in reverse, or has a left or right turn signal activated.

This screen, top left, shows the truck's blind spots, and switches images automatically depending on turn signals and if the truck is moving forward or in reverse.
This screen, top left, shows the truck's blind spots, and switches images automatically depending on turn signals and if the truck is moving forward or in reverse.
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The engine also has recessed hose fittings and valves (see photo below). That way, if the driver is squeezing through a tight spot, there's less chance of snagging on something or someone.

This panel is recessed, so fittings don't snag on things when the truck navigates tight alleys and turns.
This panel is recessed, so fittings don't snag on things when the truck navigates tight alleys and turns.
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The engine cost $533,000 and is expected to last for fifteen years. Fire officials said three are now in service and the remaining five will be delivered over the "next couple of weeks." They will go first to stations that respond to calls in the densest areas of the city, with the most alleys and narrow streets, such as Chinatown and the Financial District.

Back in 2014, then-Supervisor Scott Wiener called on the fire department to design trucks to fit the city, rather than demanding that streets be designed to accommodate fire trucks. Rivera said the fire department worked with Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition on the design. "Sometimes it feels like we are a competing interest, but we are not," he said.

Rivera may have been referring to tensions between SFMTA and the fire department over building parking-protected bike lanes on Upper Market Street and in the Tenderloin. The department, he said, is also looking to buy more versatile aerial ladder trucks to accommodate parking-protected bike lanes and other street safety improvements. "We're working on a new spec for an aerial ladder truck ... a redesigned outrigger system will go from sixteen feet to fourteen feet."

"Safety is a value and a priority the SFBC and the SFFD share," said the Bicycle Coalition's Brian Wiedenmeier, who also spoke at the event. He added that he hopes the truck will help the city "build the safe streets we need."

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