Ready to roll

By Patricia Middleton
Newton Kansan – April 18, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – April 24, 2017

All over the country, fire departments are using vehicles for training and deployment that have been built in Harvey County.

Unruh Fire, located at 100 Industrial Drive in Sedgwick, is a division of Unruh Fab, a company that builds large racks and trailers to transport glass.

The company builds custom wet and dry rescue trucks, brush trucks, airport rescue trucks, skid units, rescue trailers and command trailers. Their products are used by wildlife departments, airports, fire departments and law enforcement.

Steve Lawler, president of Unruh Fab, bought the business last year.

“When I came up and saw what they did, I said this is the place for me,” Lawler said.

Unruh Fab employs 35 people, including active duty and retired firefighters on its staff.

“It’s nice, having the expertise of people actually using our product helping us design things and have some input,” Lawler noted.

“We wouldn’t put anything out the door we wouldn’t ride on,” said Todd Nix, a part-time firefighter with Sedgwick County who works for Unruh fire.

Starting with a chassis, the company customizes a vehicle to meet the needs of the customer.

“We custom build the beds and the bodies and everything from the ground up, so we can make a custom to really unique thing,” said Wes Schamle, a salesman for Unruh Fire.

Depending on the department’s location and purpose, different setups are needed on the trucks and trailers built by Unruh Fire. The vehicles may have to be able to operate in sandy, muddy or heavily forested areas.

“We sell to all 50 states, so we get a good mixture of terrains and different firefighting styles,” Schamle noted.

The size and placement of hoses and reels, tanks, storage and steps are customized to provide the most efficient use of the vehicle’s space.

“They’re very complex machines with lots of options,” Schamle said. “We’ve always said we specialize in putting 20 pounds in 10-pound sacks.”

One of the major considerations is the placement of lights on a vehicle.

“We’ve got to imagine worst-case scenarios. Fires don’t go out because it’s dark out,” Schamle said. “They can be off-road, where there are tree trunks and there are potholes and you’ve got to be able to see everything, including your guys. Safety is really important out there.”

Unruh Fire fields requests from specific sizes for cup holders to keeping a truck’s body as low as possible so that it can be used to fight fires in enclosed spaces such as parking garages. Having a facility to build big trailers and with the expertise of firefighters at their fingertips, building training trailers for fire departments was a natural step for Unruh Fire.

“These can be used for a lot of different training uses and storage,” Lawler said. “We buy the axles and it gets built up from there.”

One of Unruh Fire’s currents projects is building a grain engulfment training trailer for Oklahoma State University.

“Our salesmen worked with Oklahoma State to learn what they exactly wanted, to make a custom trailer for their specific needs,” Lawler said.

Besides having the grain bin, the trailer holds a confined space tube, lighting for night training scenarios, and space for firefighting gear.

“The grain engulfment training trailer that we built for the KU fire service helped save a gentleman’s life out in western Kansas,” Nix noted. “They had just gone through all the training with that trailer that we built for them and they had an incident out there, and they knew how to get him out. It saved his life.”

For more information about Unruh Fire, visit


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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