The Regeneration Gap: A fire chief wrestles with front-line apparatus time-outs due to EPA Diesel Emission Regulations.

FL Chief Wood
Chief Thomas R. Wood, from City of Boca Raton website.

Over the past couple of weeks Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services (FL) Chief Tom Wood has been giving a fire chief’s view of dealing with the challenges of regeneration in front-line fire trucks and ambulances equipped with diesel particulate filters.

Even with a non-technical mind like mine, I find the subject and the issues quite fascinating. I invited Chief Wood to share his experiences with our readers in a guest column.

Chief Wood (and are interested in others with similar issues, including departments that have possibly found solutions to these problems. As always, we are glad to provide space for anyone with a dissenting view on this topic. Just contact at

All Fire and EMS apparatus should be exempt from the EPA Diesel Emission Regulations.

Chief Thomas R. Wood, CFO
Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services
6500 Congress Avenue, Suite 200
Boca Raton FL 33487

FL Boca Raton DPF
Truck 4's DPF housing. Boca Raton Fire Rescue photo.

Imagine you are in the Army and involved in a tank battle.  All of a sudden an “idiot light” comes on telling you to regenerate your tank’s diesel motor.  The commanding officer radios the enemy and requests a “regeneration time out”.  This sounds ridiculous and is ridiculous!  Thus, the U.S. military was exempted from the 2007 and 2010 EPA diesel emissions regulations.  Now imagine you are a Fire Rescue or EMS agency responding to a vehicle crash with serious injuries on the Interstate.  You start the fire engine and the “idiot light” comes on.  You think there will be enough time to complete the call, but before you even arrive, the motor shuts down and will only re-start in one minute increments.  You are on the inside lane of an five lane busy highway and crossing to the right shoulder will not be easy in 60 seconds.  This was just one of our wonderful experiences with diesel regeneration.  If “time outs” on the battlefield were considered ridiculous for the military…why is it acceptable to have these “regeneration time outs” on emergency fire and EMS incidents???

We have 5 new (2009) Horton Medic Units, built on a Freightliner chassis with Mercedes diesel motors. We have 1 new (2009) Sutphen ladder truck with a CAT diesel motor.  All 6 of these meet the EPA 2007 diesel motor standards and require “regeneration”.

This wasn’t so bad for the first 6 months.  However, as the diesel particulate filters (DPF) became saturated, we discovered the world of “regeneration”.  There is no gauge.  An “idiot light” comes on and instructs you to “regenerate”.  If you fail to do so within a specified time period, the motor shuts off and will only restart at one minute intervals.  Now we can expect to have these 6 units “out of service” every few days for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.  That is if the system works.  One of these units has failed to regenerate two weeks in a row, after trying for nearly three hours.  The software we purchased for an extra $2,000 also would not diagnose the problem.  In both cases the unit was towed to the dealership for repair, and as of April 5 it remains “out of service”.

We have established a new computer aided dispatch (CAD) Code for “regeneration activity”, so we can track it better and so the battalion chiefs know why the units are out of service.

FL Boca Raton WarningFor a short term solution, I have suggested replacing the diesel particulate filters with new ones and sending the originals out to be refurbished.  The local CAT representative tells us they are not available for purchase!!!

I just can’t wait for my whole fleet to have these wonderful systems!!!

The IAFC should take this issue seriously and petition the EPA to exempt fire and EMS apparatus, in the same fashion that military vehicles were exempted. 

This insanity needs to stop before lives are lost!

Boca Raton Fire Rescue regeneration log for 4-05-2010

Read 2010 Fire Truck Engine Strategy from FAMA

Read 2007 Diesel Emissions Impact on Indoor Air Quality from FAMA

After submitting his original article to, Chief Wood added this new information:


It has been suggested that our employees were confused with the dash board light indicating “regeneration is needed” and the one indicating “extremely hot exhaust”.

Both symbols use the same basic design.  The regeneration one has the image of a filter and the hot exhaust one has the image of a thermometer.  At a glance, one could be confused.  Very high exhaust temperatures can be generated during “passive regeneration” which can occur when the apparatus is under normal driving conditions.  Thus the light warning you not to park near combustible items comes on, and some may think they are being told to regenerate.  I am not fully sold on this theory yet.

We have learned of multiple recalls for the regeneration equipment on our one CAT motor.  This is Day 9 and the ladder truck remains O.O.S. as it is not completing the regeneration process.

We are trying a new process of having our shop force the regeneration via the vendor provided software.