It comes out of the night, glimmering on neon waves, pursued by a throbbing ostinato of ominous horns. A pair of stroboscopic eyes wink menacingly as it approaches. A huge, gaping maw circled by sharp, triangular teeth emerges from the shadows, which are cleaved by two massive black fins, and on its mighty back rides… a handful of clowns in firefighter turnouts?What in the world…?
The engine is the brainchild of a handful of San Jose Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 230 members (Sharks fans) working at Station 30, just southwest of downtown. Station 30 may be second-due to the Sharks Arena but they’re first-due in spirit. A few years ago, when San Jose’s hometown hockey team made the playoffs, the C-shift crew at Station 30 decided it would be a neat idea to mount a cardboard shark fin on top of their rig to show their support for the team. The idea germinated until the idea of a fully-decorated fire engine was submitted to the Fire Chief, who donated a reserve rig to the project. The Shark Engine was born.
Fire Fighter Tony Ojeda and Captain Ski Bartosiewicz, IAFF Local 230 members headed up the project, enlisting the aid of virtually everyone else who set foot in Station 30 during C-Shift. The crew began to solicit funding for the project from various corporations. Their first check came from the Sharks Foundation, which enthusiastically supported the idea and authorized the use of their colors and image on the engine.
“We researched how many parades the shark rig would be seen at,” said Bartosiewicz. “With all the parades downtown and other events we have in San José, we figured it would be seen by over one million people during the first year. Our hope is to have it at every major function in the city.”
Los Gatos artist Glen Marchant designed and would paint the white, red, teal, and navy blue shark that covers the apparatus. The rig had started out in 1983 as Engine 4, then migrated over to Engine 11 before being relegated to reserve status in the mid ‘90s. Working with the San Jose Fire Fighter’s Muster Team and Local 230 Executive Board members, Station 30 C-Shift mapped out the modifications needed. The rig was driven out to Oakdale, where Hi-Tech Fire Apparatus stripped it down and then enthusiastically performed the needed modifications.
The grill was removed from the front and the sirens and horn lowered to afford maximum space and visibility for the shark’s mouth. The original 500-gallon water tank was removed and replaced with a 200-gallon tank, allowing the bed to be lowered for installation of two back-to-back benches, allowing seated riders during a parade. The pump was retained along with two transverse lines so that kids can shoot water using a 50’ 1″ hoseline during hands-on demos. The side-mounted ladders were replaced with new storage compartments. New emergency and running lights were installed, including red strobe airplane wing lights mounted on both sides where they glimmer brightly as the shark’s eyes. A pair of pike poles were configured on either side of the bed, one to fly the American flag, the other to fly whatever flag is appropriate for the given event.
Blue neon lights were installed in the wheel wells to give the impression, at night, that the “shark” is floating in water. The cab was equipped with a CD sound system to play the theme from JAWS (licensed by the Sharks as its musical signature). An LED reader board was installed on the back of the rig to display messages appropriate to each given event.
To protect Glen Marchant’s detailed paint job, tough Imron acrylic paint was used and Hi-Tech went over that with a clearcoat sealant. The dorsal and tail fins were made out of Styrofoam and fiberglass by a company in Las Vegas that manufactures surfboard fins.
The modifications came to about $70,000, all of which was covered through the donations. Corporate sponsors who donated $10,000 or more have their name and logo appearing on the rear of the engine. These sponsors thus far include San Jose Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 230, and its members who have donated hundreds of hours to the project, San José Fire Department (which also donated the rig), the City of San José, the San Jose Fire Fighter’s Burn Foundation, The Sharks Foundation, and Hi-Tech Fire Apparatus.
“The Shark Engine is good for the fire department because we get our fire prevention message across,” said Ski Bartosiewicz. “It’s the community coming together for a piece of equipment that will benefit the kids, who are going to pick up on something that is extraordinarily different from anything they’ve seen before. Secondly, the city will get their fair share of the publicity simply because it shows the rest of the nation – and to sports teams who might be considering a move to San José – the kind of support we’ll put behind professional teams and to businesspeople who come into the area. And of course, the benefit to the Sharks has been great. The more we can do as a fire department, and the more we can show who we are as a city, that benefits everybody.”