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Something Old, Something New - 10 Years Later Looking Back on the CO2 Tender

The following has been extracted from a Fire News Article written by the Museum of Fire from May 2013 in relation to the at the time new CO2 Tender entering the Fire and Rescue Fleet back in 2013.


CO2 Tenders Past

With the imminent arrival of a new CO2 Tender, we thought it timely to revisit the history of an appliance type believed to be unique to FRNSW over a period of almost 80 years.


Back in the mid-1930s, the Sydney County Council (electricity distributor for much of Sydney) came up with the novel idea of putting small substations underground instead of in ground level cabinets or up on poles. Concerns about the possibility of fires led to discussions with NSWFB personnel about protection systems. Carbon dioxide was determined to be the best solution, but the expense of fitting every chamber with a suitable system was considered excessive. The NSWFB suggested a special mobile unit carrying sufficient CO2 on board to deal with any outbreak in the largest sized chambers.

Dodge CO2 Tender at Woollahra Station [Museum of Fire Collection]
Dodge CO2 Tender at Woollahra Station [Museum of Fire Collection]

Thus, was born the concept of the CO2 Tender. A Dodge 3-ton chassis was purchased in 1938 and fitted with bodywork and suitable equipment, including eight 50 lb cylinders of compressed CO2. Installed at Headquarters in 1939, it also carried limited breathing apparatus and heat-resistant clothing for specialised operations.


By 1965 the Board of Fire Commissioners decided a replacement was necessary, and purchased a Ford Thames Trader chassis, similar to those being used as pumpers in that era. When the Ford entered service in early 1966, the Dodge was kept as a spare until withdrawn with mechanical problems in 1974.


The third generation CO2 Tender with new bodywork was built in 1984 on an International 610A chassis. In 2002, the bodywork was transferred to a Mitsubishi chassis. This is still in service as an SEV but is expected to be withdrawn when the new unit enters service. The fourth generation was built on a new Isuzu chassis in 2002 and is currently in service at 38 Station Pyrmont.

CO2 Tender, ME 754 Ford Thames Trader [Museum of Fire Collection]
CO2 Tender, ME 754 Ford Thames Trader [Museum of Fire Collection]

Both the 1938 Dodge and 1966 Ford have been preserved at the Museum of Fire, and it is expected the Mitsubishi will join them shortly.


CO2 Tenders Present

Sydney firefighters have been busy training for the delivery of a brand-new appliance - the CO2 (carbon dioxide) Tender - the only one of its kind in Australia. The Tender is stationed at Pyrmont Fire Station and will be responded across the greater Sydney area, the area identified as having the greatest need for this type of specialised vehicle.

International 610A CO2 Tender at Alexandria Training College [Museum of Fire Collection]
International 610A CO2 Tender at Alexandria Training College [Museum of Fire Collection]

“Having a CO2 Tender mitigates a lot of risk for us,” said City of Sydney Station Officer Craig Mashman. “They are essential for fighting subterranean fires where access is minimal and high-risk situations such as underground electrical kiosks, basement fires, substations and ships’ hulls.”


The Tender is an Isuzu FRR 600 single cab design with automated manual transmission, ABS brakes and anti-skid traction control. The body was manufactured by Mills Tui (Australia) Pty Ltd who also built FRNSW’s last CO2 Tender. When the new appliance is commissioned, the 2002 Tender will be used as a Service Exchange Vehicle (SEV). “The current CO2 Tender will be used as the SEV and will have some minor modifications to allow it to carry the foam generator,” said Assistant Director Fleet, Peter Fanning. “It will be used as a spare whenever the new one is being serviced.”

The Isuzu FRR 600 CO2 Tender attached to 038 Pyrmont Station, 2013 [Museum of Fire Collection]
The Isuzu FRR 600 CO2 Tender attached to 038 Pyrmont Station, 2013 [Museum of Fire Collection]

The new vehicle carries 16 CO2 cylinders (22 kilos per cylinder), four more than its current counterpart.

The appliance will be crewed by two firefighters and used predominately to extinguish subterranean electrical fires using CO2 via one or both of two hose reels mounted on each side of the vehicle, or by special hoses and connections that can flood an underground substation with CO2. The hose reels are 60 metres long and can be operated independently.


The CO2 Tender carries a cache of specialist equipment including a high expansion foam generator and a positive pressure ventilation fan, plus additional equipment that enables bulk CO2 supply. In addition, the appliance has been designed as a support appliance at major incidents and carries 40 CABA cylinders and a Stage 2 BA control board.


-Story by the Museum of Fire Heritage Team, first published in Fire News Issue May 2013

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