Bandelier National Monument, near Los Alamos, New Mexico, has a new vehicle to help with firefighting efforts.
Through its Bronco Wild Fund endowment, Ford donated a customized 2023 Bronco Badlands with the Sasquatch package that has been upfitted by Darley to Bandelier National Monument.
Custom-Fit for Firefighting Command Duties
The custom vehicle features specialized equipment inside and out, including a state-of-the-art government communication system with satellite and antenna connections to provide reliability and redundancy in the most remote environments.
This Bronco is a real-life execution of the Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept. It includes a Yakima LockNLoad Platform fitted with enhanced features, including:
- Whelen Light Package.
- Rigid Light Package.
- Grille guard.
- Set of beadlock wheels.
The trunk of the Bronco is upfitted with a TruckVault vehicle storage unit to allow for secure equipment storage. The unit has a pullout tray that can act as a table for fire crews to place laptops or map out the area they are responding to.
Darley is a global manufacturer and distributor of defense, fire, and rescue vehicles and is the company carrying out the customization. The vehicle is upfit with an array of equipment to help the park monitor and manage active fires, identify fires, deliver real-time updates on fire location and severity, and provide other firefighting support.
The integrated technology will allow firefighters to establish a real-time backcountry command and control position with the crews during emergency operations.
The vehicle also includes a Parrot ANAFI USA GOV drone with live feed screens on the vehicle, a Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet computer, and special software called DroneSense that provides the first response team with improved aerial reconnaissance, detection capabilities, and improved situational awareness.
The high-tech, effective solutions, including a state-of-the-art Kymeta U8 terminal government communications system with satellite and antenna connections and provides improved aerial, detection, and situational analysis capabilities with a drone and live feeds, allow for safer operations when responding to wildland fires and other domestic disaster situations.
“Henry Ford and W.S. Darley worked together in the 20th century,” Darley Chief Marketing Officer Kimberly Brown said. “We are honored that a hundred-plus years later, our companies are still working together to serve our national heroes and sustain our beautiful spaces. Everything we do is built for performance and powered by technology with a relentless focus on the human experience.”
Up Close with Ford's 2023 Bronco Badlands
The Government Fleet team had a chance to get an up-close look at the 2023 Bronco Badlands being donated to Bandelier National Monument during a recent visit to Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds.
Bronco Brand Manager Matthew Winter said the Bronco was the perfect vehicle to fulfill Bandelier's needs, because it's capable of getting further off the road and closer to fires to give it a strong commanding position for the communications role it will play. The Bronco is also able to store the technology needed for the job.
"The technology has gotten small enough to fit into a Bronco without sacrificing any of its off-road capability and provide them that communications aspect," Winter said. "A lot of times with terrestrial communications, line of sight is extremely important. And if you're in a big vehicle, you can't quite get to the top of the ridge or where you need it to be."
The Bronco is able to reach hard-to-access places and give the team a better view, versus a vehicle with limited off-road capabilities.
The communications system also includes the Dejero 211 Gateway, a network aggregation device that combines multiple networks to provide reliable connectivity. The vehicle is equipped with satellites, cellular, and traditional UHF/VHF radio communications, so there are multiple ways and carriers fire crews can use to communicate.
The Bronco also has a HyphaMAP, a network system which creates a strong WiFi network in an uncrowded frequency. It acts as a centralized router with the capabilities to combine different nodes, creating a mesh network.
Additionally, it's equipped with a HyphaCap, which allows users to connect to the HyphaMAP and maintain network connection up to two to three miles away from the vehicle. The Cap is a portable device that can be carried or left in elevated positions to create a large mesh network.
"It's going to use those multiple signals to determine what's the best one to keep everyone in contact. So if it has cell capability, it will be able to use that. And if it needs to switch to a different carrier, or switch to the satellite, it can do that on the fly, really keeping the firefighter teams in communication in the field," Winter explained.
Inside the vehicle, the upfitting team was able to keep all five seats available for passengers, or overnight gear storage for a response team that plans to work more than 24 hours.
Winter believes the Bronco can be a good option for fire departments in need of off-road fire response.
"[This could work for] public safety organizations that have a firefighting component for search and rescue that are needing to go places that conventional vehicles are just not quite up to the task of," Winter said. "Looking at wildland firefighters, those kinds of organizations that are pushing their vehicles a little bit farther into nature into the wild and the traditional road-going vehicles just don't have the capability to get them that far. Not a lot of vehicles come with a rear locker, much less a front and rear locker and that helps them just have that extra ability to get a little bit farther out there."
The ground clearance on the vehicle is 13 in. The Badlands has full underbody steel plates to protect the vehicle's lower components if it rolls over a log or rock. There are also rock rails on each side to support the weight of the vehicle.
"We're really hoping to see a couple battle scars [on] this vehicle. It can take it; it's very hardy," Winter said.
About Bandelier National Monument's Terrain
The Bronco includes advanced off-roading and many more advanced features for taking on the trails and helping firefighting crews tackle the park’s 33,000 acres during this fire season and beyond.
The national monument is comprised of rugged canyons and mesas that contain petroglyphs, cliffs, dwellings and evidence of human presence going back over 11,000 years.
Its position in the transition zone of the high desert of the American Southwest provides a unique environment where the rapid effects of climate change have been observed and studied. The park has a history of natural fire occurrences. As the fire season grows longer, it experiences more repeated fires in the same landscape.
Two-thirds of Bandelier is designated wilderness, meaning it lacks infrastructure and is difficult to access. The Bronco wildland firefighting command rig will enhance Bandelier's fire fleet, expanding their current capabilities.
“Over the last 20 years, warmer temperatures and strongerwinds have resulted in bigger fires that are harder to predict and manage," Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Patrick Suddath said. "These more resource-intensive fires have a real impact on Bandelier's firefighting corps, and this donation will help us manage fires better. It will also help to minimize impact to the park’s affiliated tribes, who have traditionally used park land for cultural, economic, and spiritual reasons."
Ford officially handed the vehicle over to the National Park Service in a ceremony at Bandelier National Monument on June 28.
About the Bronco Wild Fund
A portion of the profits from every Bronco sold goes directly to the Ford Bronco Wild Fund. It works to increase access, preservation, and stewardship of our public lands. To date, Bronco Wild Fund has donated more than $3.7 million to diverse causes, including organizations like America’s State Parks, National Forest Foundation, Outward Bound, and Sons of Smokey.
“For more than a century, Ford has supported fire response and disaster relief efforts by deploying vehicles to provide emergency transportation and power and deliver essential goods,” Ford Enthusiast Brand Manager Dave Rivers said. “Bronco Wild Fund was created because of our passion for the outdoors, and we’re excited to donate the Bronco wildland firefighting-command rig to Bandelier to help protect this National Monument for generations to come.”
This Bronco is the first of two that Darley is developing for donation to the National Park Services and a wildland firefighting agency that will be the subject of a future announcement.
The pilot program intends to develop a tool that addresses an unmet need by allowing a deeper command position with reliable and redundant connectivity, as well as facilitating the acquisition and sharing of valuable information to aid firefighters.
The sixth generation Ford Bronco debuted with the 2021 model year.