WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — For the Wichita Fire Department (WFD), the need for a vehicle designed specifically to fight wildfires was just a proof of concept a few years ago. Now, despite some bumps in the road due to the pandemic and supply chain shortages, that concept has become a reality.

“We’ve been real impressed with these,” WFD Battalion Chief Lane Pearman said.

Chief Pearman says the department staffs four custom-made vehicles designed to go off-road and fight grassfires (three of which arrived last year). He says in his 28 years of working with the WFD, these units are making a world of difference for the WFD and neighboring fire districts.

“Having these vehicles, we can go the head fire almost completely unimpeded…The pump controls from the cab, these vehicles are equipped with nozzles on the bumper, and they can on the roll immediately begin to extinguish the fire, so it is definitely a game changer,” Chief Pearman said.

Chief Pearman said in addition to the vehicles housing tools, equipment and appliances, the military-spec tires keep the units from getting stuck in unruly terrain—a common problem for traditional four-wheel drive pick-up trucks.

“At least once a year in the state of Kansas, you do hear about brush fire units, off-road firefighting vehicles being overrun by fire,” Chief Pearman said.

Fire Captain Joel Wiens with Station 3 helps operate the specialized units.

“We have a list of people that are trained on the wildland units to come in and work extra if weather conditions dictate,” Captain Wiens said. “We’re on the back of there spraying water. It can be very smoky, very hot. It’s up to your driver to keep you in a safe spot.”

Captain Wiens says the vehicles have also come in handy as Wichita continues expanding.

“The newer divisions like to have evergreens and tall grass in their common areas…and so having these capabilities will allow us to get to the fires quicker,” Captain Wiens.

Regarding the possibility of additional units, Chief Pearman says the WFD plans on doubling its fleet of specialized brush trucks within the next few years.