Fort Garry Fire Trucks
Fort Garry Fire Trucks (FGFT) has been building fire trucks, custom-built pumpers, aerial ladders, water delivery tankers and all related firefighting equipment since the early 1950’s. Over these years, FGFT has supplied firefighting equipment to cities, towns, and municipalities throughout Canada, the U.S., and around the world. FGFT designs and produces equipment for the most extreme conditions and, in addition, offers parts, service, and rubber manufacturing.
FGFT was originally founded in 1919, manufacturing rubber products, and while the company’s 93-year old rubber division may be a small part of the business today, it still delivers quality, durable, custom-designed steel and rubber moulded products, servicing and relining hi-rail wheels for railway companies, making tarp straps for truckers, and installing rubber fittings for the mining and printing industries — recovering and remanufacturing press rollers, and installing rubber liners in tanks. But again … it’s the custom made fire trucks and emergency vehicles that give FGFT its world renowned reputation.
FGFT is on the leading edge of manufacturing of the emergency vehicles in both technique and design. FGFT engineering team creates extreme body designs that made the company the largest builder of fire apparatus in Canada, building around 100 trucks annually. The company employs a workforce of approximately 100 employees with large engineering staff, and the FGFT engineering and production teams focus on meeting and exceeding customer expectations, and to put action behind the words, the company meets ISO 9001 quality management systems standards.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke to Rick Suche, President of FGFT. With 34 years of experience under his belt working for FGFT, Suche is a veteran when it comes to building custom fire trucks, and discussion about the challenges and advances in the industry. “Each of these vehicles is unique and has specific requirements to meet the customer’s needs. We work with our customers to help them design the truck they need, whether it’s a tanker, a pumper, a brush truck and so on. We work with the customer for up to a year before the customers go to a tender or buy their truck,” says Suche.
Even with no direct industry standardization, the company offers ready-made custom solutions gathered over the years of engineering experience, providing clients the opportunity to choose solutions from previously built vehicles for similar intents and scenarios. The company helps the customers to make the right decision in regards to their specific needs, from the choice of the drive [two wheel/four wheel], foam systems, tank sizes, winches, to lights and any detail that can make a world of difference in an emergency situation. “Fire trucks are dispatched across various emergency situations such as medical emergencies, water rescue, ice rescue and so on. Fire is just a small portion of how the fire trucks are being used today, so the trucks need to carry a large amount of equipment for these various rescue situations, while still be ready for fire emergencies, from house fires to potential highway vehicle collision fires,” says Suche.
The company grew up building fire trucks for northern Canada — one of the toughest environments in the world. FGFT builds its reputation on constructing heavy-duty truck platforms, and while the competition still uses steel for framework and uses aluminum only to build the vehicle body, FGFT has been building heavy aluminum framework for over 30 years.
“Our models are engineered for the extreme. We have trucks in every hamlet of the Northwest Territories and around the world,” says Suche and does not exaggerate. The company trucks operate 200 miles from the North Pole, across the U.S., the Bahamas, China, Cuba, Guatemala, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, and anywhere where extreme conditions require an extremely durable product. United Arab Emirates has been a client for the past 15 years, and represents the company’s largest global customer. UAE requires top quality and high strength products that will stand up the rigours of the rough road to get to the emergency.
In with the New
While the demand for FGFT’s remains steady, the company decided to move on — literally. The management is currently working with Contempora Steel to build a new customized facility of almost 50,000 square feet, moving the company to Manitoba’s CentrePort Canada. The main driver behind this move is to create a more effective facility with better production layout, increase the workflow and maximize the efficiency when it comes to building custom vehicles. “As far as production goes, there is no true production line when it comes to building custom-made vehicles. Our product mix has changed drastically over the past 15 years, so our new building should help us address these changes. To remain competitive we need to be able to create lean manufacturing. This is where our new facility comes in, as we are trying to create as much production flow through the facility as possible, as this is a fairly difficult challenge for a company with a custom-built business model such as FGFT.” The company’s new facility will be located next to Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. CentrePort provides easy access to major national and international roads, rail and sea corridors and gateways.
While the industry of custom-built emergency vehicles has changed, Fort Garry Fire Trucks continues to push the envelope, offering tested designs and producing highly durable vehicles that continue to eradicate emergencies around the world one call at the time.