By Alan M. Petrillo
The South Hutchinson (KS) Fire Department was in the market for a rescue fire apparatus but felt that the vehicle it needed should handle more than only rescues. In May 2013, the department put out feelers to apparatus manufacturers to see what was available in the way of a combination vehicle that had rescue as its chief task, but could double as a quick-attack vehicle when necessary and also as an emergency medical services (EMS) response rig.
South Hutchison chief Mike Patterson says the department found the answer to its needs in the form of a rescue combination truck built by Unruh Fire. “We definitely wanted the vehicle to be built on a Ford F-550 chassis,” Patterson says, “and we wanted a high-angle of departure at the rear of the vehicle because we sometimes have to go over ditches and want to be able to clear them easily.”
South Hutchison is an incorporated city of 2,500 covering 2½ square miles that includes the largest pizza manufacturing company in the country, a Morton Salt manufacturing facility, and a very large nursing home population.
The fire department has 24 volunteer firefighters operating out of a single station. Its other apparatus includes a 2006 Pierce Contender-Saber pumper with a 1,250-gpm pump and a 1,000 gallon water tank; a 1996 Ford F-750/Smeal pumper with a 1,000-gpm pump and 1,000-gallon water tank; a 1969 ex-military Kaiser Jeep carrying a 250-gpm pump and a 250-gallon water tank; and a 1967 Kaiser Jeep 1,000-gallon water tender (tanker).
South Hutchinson took delivery on the Unruh 2013 four-wheel-drive rescue combination in September 2013. “We considered putting a compressed air foam system (CAFS) on the vehicle, but decided to go with a Class A foam system instead,” Patterson points out. “So, the rescue has a Hale 250-gpm rear-mount pump on it, a Custom Composites polypropylene 300-gallon water tank, a 12-gallon integral foam cell, and a Darley ATP Foam Flurry around the pump foam mixer.”
Todd Nix, apparatus consultant for Unruh Fire, says, “We cut seven inches off the back compartments of the body and raised them to give the department the angle of departure that it wanted in the vehicle. But, that didn’t affect having a full complement of compartments and storage on slide-out trays and boards.”
Nix says that the 4×4 diesel powered F-550 was fitted with skid plates because the department anticipated using it off road for calls. “They have an area of their district with trails in it and wanted to be able to take the rescue in there to handle EMS calls as well as brush fires,” he notes. The rescue combo carries a Hannay reel with 150-feet of one inch redline booster hose, Nix says.
Patterson adds that the rescue vehicle also has 150 feet of 1¾-inch hose preconnected and 100 feet of three-inch supply line in the top right dunnage area. South Hutchinson’s firefighters mounted all the equipment in the compartments, he says, including the first set of hydraulic rescue tools the city ever purchased—TNT Rescue jaws, shears, and a ram.
“The power unit and hoses are in the back compartment on the driver’s side. The tools, wedges, and cribbing are in the passenger side rear compartment,” Patterson says. “We’ve used the vehicle for some injury accidents with entrapment and also for an industrial accident where a victim got caught up in some large rollers.”
The rescue runs EMS calls in tandem with a hospital-based EMS rig, Patterson notes. The South Hutchinson rescue carries its EMS gear in the driver’s side number two compartment. The vehicle has two R-O-M telescoping 500-watt scene lights behind the cab, as well as Whelen LED emergency warning lights and siren and a brush guard at the front.
“One of the unusual things about this vehicle is that it has a trunion compartment,” Patterson points out. “It’s set in between the frame rails and under the water tank, accessible from the rear of the vehicle. We keep six-foot pike poles and a spine board in there for easy access.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.