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Ansul Chemical Crash Trucks

Model J2-340 Airport Fire Jeeps


 

Builder's plateAnsul Chemical Company of Marinette, Wisconsin was named in 1915 for the chemical ANhydrous SULfur Dioxide which it produced for use in refrigeration. Following World War II the company began making dry chemical fire extinguishers, and as of 2018 is owned by Tyco Fire Protection and continues to make extinguishers and fire suppression systems for restaurants, vehicles and industry.
 

CJ-3A, 1950 Ansul installed dry-chemical apparatus on Willys Jeep vehicles for two decades. They announced the "New Jeep Fire Fighting Unit" in the May 1950 edition of Fire Engineering, with this photo of a Willys CJ-3A carrying 340 pounds of sodium bicarbonate.

The announcement says that the unit is "capable of extinguishing large area flammable liquid, gas and electrical fires. Named the Ansul Model 340-J, the Jeep fire truck is considered especially suitable for manufacturing and chemical plants, the petroleum industry, airports, electric and gas utilities, municipal fire departments and forest ranger groups." (It's not clear why forest rangers would be dealing with gas or electrical fires.)

Judging from photos and surviving units I have run across, the primary use for the Jeeps was as airport crash trucks.
 

Chicago O'Hare

O'Hare AirportAnsul Jeeps mostly protected smaller airports and military air bases. But this picture of an Ansul CJ-3B in front of the new firehouse at O'Hare Airport in Chicago in 1962, shows that they were also in use at large international airports.

Behind the Jeep is a WWII-surplus 1943 Sterling Class 150 crash truck, converted by the CFD shops from liquid foam to a Cardox (carbon dioxide) unit in 1956. It carried 6000 pounds of CO2 and 500 pounds of liquid foam.
 

O'Hare Airport Ansul designated their CJ-3B as model J2-340. This 1961 example had the distinctive Chicago FD red and green lights port and starboard, but was painted in Civil Defense blue and white.

This closer view is a detail from the photo above, taken by the late Warren Redick, a CFD Battalion Chief and co-author of Classic Chicago Fire Department Images From the 1950s and 1960s. Photo courtesy of Steve Redick at KSC711.
 

O'Hare AirportKen Little, co-author of the four-volume History of Chicago Fire Houses sent this undated photo of the O'Hare Jeep. Ken says, "The rig was known as Jeep Chemical No. 1 and carried Ansul Dry Powder in a container in the back. The main Fire Alarm Office was never notified that this rig was in service so I do not believe we have in service dates, but this Jeep was replaced in 1963 by a Dodge Power Wagon with an Ansul tank."

It's surprising that it wasn't replaced with an Ansul FC-170 Jeep (see below), knowing the CFD's fondness for Jeep FC Units.
 

Elko, Nevada

1962 The Elko Regional Airport in Nevada has a lot of history, having been established in 1919 as a stop on the first transcontinental air route. Their Ansul CJ-3B was purchased in 1962, as described in this article from the Elko Daily Free Press of 28 September 1962.
 

Elko, NevadaThanks to Lew Ladwig for this photo of Elko's Jeep on display in the lobby of the airport in 2013.

Elko firefighter Dave Wiggins told CJ3B.info that the Jeep now belongs to the Elko Firefighters Association Local 2423, who wanted to keep it in the community, and take it to fundraisers and car shows. Thanks to Dave for also sending the clipping above.
 

1962 In 1974 the capabilities of the Jeep were expanded with the purchase of an Ansul trailer. (See the invoice (150K JPEG) for the trailer.) The trailer carried the one-two punch of "Purple K" (potassium bicarbonate) and "Light Water" (AFFF or Aqeuous Film Forming Foam) which had been developed in the 1960s under Project Light Water, a joint venture between 3M and the U.S. Navy.

Delivered through a 100-foot double hose to twin nozzles, the dry chemical puts out the fire and the Light Water film covers it to prevent re-ignition. Light Water is still widely used for aircraft firefighting.
 

Elko, 2017 The union had the Jeep and trailer out on display as part of their fundraising drive for for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in August 2017. Thanks to the Elko Daily Free Press for the photo by Erik Jorgensen which gives a look at the trailer's two-cylinder system with two nozzles attached together.

The Airport-1 Trailer (Model 450/50) carried 450 lbs. of Purple K and 50 gallons of Light Water solution. The range is given as 27 ft. for the dry chemical, and 18 ft. for the Light Water. The pressure is supplied by two nitrogen cylinders of 110 cu. ft. and 300 cu. ft.
 

Greensboro, North Carolina

A tragic accident in 1962, involving a military transport plane at Greensboro-High Point Airport outside Greensboro NC, revealed the limitations of the Ansul J2-340 in dealing with a burning multi-engine aircraft.
 

5 February 1962 On 4 February 1962, a U.S. Air Force C-47 (military DC-3) crashed on takeoff, killing all seven personnel on board. The aircraft was reported to have climbed steeply but then veered to the left, struck the ground with its left wing, cartwheeled and burned.
 

6 February 1962 Press coverage focussed on the fact that the airport had only the little Jeep and one old pumper for fire protection, and no full-time firefighters. The Greensboro Daily News of 6 February printed this earlier photo of the Jeep and the 1940s truck, with the caption "This is it." It did not say whether the man in the photo was airport employee Harold Stith, who had driven the Jeep to the scene of the crash. According to another newspaper report, "he said the Jeep's supply of foam gave out before he could put out the fire."

An unidentifed observer was quoted as saying the airport's equipment "wouldn't put out a henhouse fire." But one official noted that the two trucks, and apparatus from several Guilford County fire departments who arrived soon after, did prevent the 450 gallons of fuel in the right wing fuel tank from exploding.
 

May 1962 The Ansul Company may have been relieved that press coverage around the country did not have the same focus on the limitations of the Jeep; see for example the Delaware County Daily Times (380K JPEG) of 6 February 1962.

However, the company was probably concerned when the accident was covered in the May 1962 issue of the fire service publication Hose & Nozzle, with a photo on the cover of two dejected Guilford County firefighters at the crash scene. The comments inside the magazine (50K JPEG) reflect the same opinion that the equipment at Greensboro was inadequate.

Thanks to Mike Legeros' Greensboro-High Point Airport Fire Department History for these clippings. Mike does not record what happened to the Jeep after 1965 when a full-time airport fire department was created by Guilford County. However, officials don't seem to have had any reservations about Ansul equipment, because in October 1964 they ordered a new Dodge Ansul unit as well as a larger American LaFrance Airport Chief (60K JPEG) crash truck.

Pennsylvania

I haven't seen any evidence that the Greensboro accident damaged Ansul's reputation, and they continued converting Jeeps for a number of years. The CJ-3B below would have been delivered by Willys Motors to Ansul in Wisconsin shortly after the accident.

Left The Jeep has VIN 57348-88494 (55K JPEG) so according to Kaiser Jeep 1960-67 Serial Numbers it was built in late January 1962. After the J2-340 package was fitted, it provided protection for a fleet of corporate aircraft at a small airport in Pennsylvania.

The Jeep was also used to move aircraft in the hangar and maintenance areas, and it's not clear whether it ever actually fought a fire. It was always stored in a hangar, and was still in excellent condition when it surfaced for sale in 2004, with 5,040 miles on the odometer.
 

Rear This rear view shows the foam tank enclosed in the center of the rear cargo area, the clear aircraft warning beacon, and the original fire axe (55K JPEG).
 

Rear Opening the left rear compartment shows the coil of rubber hose for the dry chemical system. There is also a compartment with its own hose line valve (50K JPEG) on the right side.
 

Front The sodium bicarbonate tank is pressurized by a nitrogen-filled pressure cylinder, and the operating instructions (150K JPEG) include blowing out the hoses after use. The control valves (80K JPEG) for the tank and for hose cleanout are beside the driver's seat.
 

CylinderThe passenger seat mounts were actually raised about six inches to clear the nitrogen cylinder, which apparently extends forward from the tailgate. Tilting up the seat reveals the pressure gauges (70K JPEG).
 

Front An airplane hitch (60K JPEG) has been added on the front, and a piece of PVC pipe attached to the bumper, apparently for carrying some piece of equipment.

Standard from Ansul was a pair of their 20-pound dry chemical extinguishers mounted on the hood. The engine compartment is clean and complete: see the engine right side (80K JPEG) and a top view (80K JPEG).
 

Dash This interior photo shows the spotlight, and the nitrogen cylinder below the seat. Other detail photos include the odometer (50K JPEG) showing 5040 miles and a dash tag (50K JPEG) showing Ansul S.N. 4327. Another label lists applicable patents (70K JPEG), and the multiple languages suggest that Ansul also exported their apparatus. I have not yet seen a photo of an example in use overseas.

This Jeep was sold in 2004 by D'Ogee Inc., brokers for used industrial equipment.
 

Long Island NY

Islip MacArthur Airport, Long Island NYPete Ritter of Long Island MacArthur Airport Fire Rescue sent these old photos of a 1953 CJ-3B that served Islip MacArthur Airport on Long Island, from the 1950s through the early 1970's. He says, "According to the current owner who stripped it down and restored it (without the Ansul setup), it was originally painted in a green metallic color, then red and finally airport yellow."
 

Islip, Long Island NY"At one point in the 1950s there were two of these serving here as part of the Sperry Gyroscope Corporation fire brigade. This one was given to the airport when a formal Fire Rescue department was established in the early 1960s."

Interestingly, there are almost identical photos taken before and after the department changed colors from red to yellow in 1966-67. See also the side view in yellow (50K JPEG), including the Kenworth/Mack Class 155 ex-Army Air Corps crash truck, circa 1944, which also served into the early'70s.
 

Islip, Long Island NYAnd see also a side view in red (50K JPEG).

Pete says that after its service at MacArthur, this Jeep was sent to a general aviation field known as Edwards Airport (now Bayport Aerodrome) and then forgotten about in the corner of a maintenance building until being surplussed about 2001.
 

Albany NY

1988An Ansul CJ-3B also protected the Albany NY County Airport for many years. The large copy (120K JPEG) of this 1988 photo reveals the passenger seat raised to clear the nitrogen pressure tank mounted below it. The passenger would have a good view as long as the soft top was removed!

The photo is from the collection of the late Richard M. Adelman of Memphis TN. Thanks to Gary Urbanowicz for spotting the photo.
 

Albany NYFirefighter Allen Pinney sent CJ3B.info another photo. He wrote, "I was a member of the New Salem Fire Dept. in NY, and I love the article on our old Jeep (I drove it more than once to a brush fire or parade.) I also worked at the Albany Co. Airport as a firefighter and we had an Ansul Dry Chem Jeep there. I only have one photo (from 1988-89) and unfortunately I do not know what became of her. Thanks for bringing back some great memories!"
 

Other Models

Catalogue This Ansul catalogue is dated 1961, and lists the CJ-3B chassis as a standard package, but the illustration still shows a CJ-3A (50K JPEG) from 1953 or earlier.

Ansul equipment was available for truck or trailer mounting as required by the customer, and the catalogue states that "Ansul fire trucks of many sizes and descriptions protect civil and military airports, oil fields, refineries, armed forces installations, and large industrial and chemical plants all over the world." Their recommended platform however, was the Willys Jeep. The catalogue listing for the J2-340 package on the CJ-3B, specifies a 300-pound dry-chemical unit with two 50-ft. hoses, and two hand extinguishers.

The illustration also shows a Jeep Forward Control FC-150 (70K JPEG) but the catalogue lists a 1000-pound T-1000-B dry-chemical unit as being normally mounted on the larger FC-170.

See the catalogue's list of specifications (170K JPEG) for the CJ-3B, FC-170 and skid-mount packages for pickup trucks. Catalogue from the collection of Thomas D. Engle.
 

USAF, CJ-3A

Illinois The only surviving example I have seen of the CJ-3A-based Ansul Model 340-J, is this one reportedly belonging to the U.S. Air Force. It's pictured here in a parade celebrating the centennial of the Champaign IL Fire Department. The extinguishers on the hood look like pressurized water cans rather than dry chemical, but they may also be "Light Water" (AFFF).
 

Illinois A firefighter in a proximity suit rides on the elevated passenger seat, which would make a good spot for the parade marshall or the Pope to ride!

Parade photos courtesy of Bill Friedrich's IllinoisFireTrucks.com.
 

Waterloo, Ontario, CJ-5

Ontario The first fire truck at Waterloo-Wellington Airport in Ontario was purchased in 1966. Although Ansul had apparently liked the CJ-3B platform and continued to use it into the early 1960s, by 1966 they were using the CJ-5 .

As of 2018, this Jeep is in working condition and still used at airport events. Photo courtesy of Region of Waterloo International Airport.
 

Thule Air Base, FC-170

FC170Here's the Ansul 1000-pound system installed on a Forward Control FC-170. This truck has been restored by the Military Firefighter Heritage Foundation and is displayed with their collection at Goodfellow AFB in Texas. Jim Fairweather told us, "The predecessor to the modern P-13 and P-20 USAF firefighting vehicles, this last-of-its-kind Ansul/Jeep dry chemical vehicle served at Thule AB in Greenland, where its small size enabled it to traverse the narrow tunnels connecting the buildings and nodes of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS)."

See also a front view photo (60K JPEG) and a left side view of the tanks (60K JPEG).
 

March AFB, J-20

USAF This Ansul-equipped 1974 J-20 pickup was photographed in U.S. Air Force service at March Air Force Base in California, but I don't have any details on its service there.
 

USAF This also appears to be an Ansul system in a J-20, at an unidentified Air Force facility.

As of 2018, Ansul still manufactures pre-engineered systems for vehicle installation, but their most distinctive product was probably the little J2-340 Willys Jeep of the 1950s and 60s.
 

Thanks to Federico Cavedo, Wes Kibble, Ken Little, Allen Pinney, Lew Ladwig, and Helen Stratton of D'Ogee Inc. for photos. Also Thomas D. Engle for the Ansul catalogue. -- Derek Redmond

See a similar dry chemical rig built by Electromagnetic Industries Inc. for the U.S. Marine Corps, in Fire Jeeps in Vietnam.


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Last updated 22 November 2018 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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