Apparatus, Features, Rescues

Reading Benefit (KS) Fire Department Goes to Unruh Fire for Light Rescue Fire Apparatus


By Alan M. Petrillo

The firefighters at the Reading Benefit (KS) Fire Department wanted a light rescue truck but wanted a lot of customized features on the vehicle that typically wouldn’t be found on a rig that size. When the firefighters saw two units that Unruh Fire had built for the Boston (MA) Fire Department, they knew they had found the manufacturer to build their rescue.

Wes Schamle, sales manager for Unruh Fire, says his company had completed two emergency medical services (EMS) Tango units for Boston, which the Reading Benefit firefighters got to look over. “They liked the outside dimensions of the truck,” Schamle says. “The top header rises up 10 inches to create a false outer wall around the top of the vehicle, which gave added protection to Boston’s generator, light tower, and storage boxes. That protection was important to Boston because of their narrow streets and tight areas.”

Mark Shoemaker, Reading Benefit’s assistant chief, says the truck committee firefighters liked the extra space and height on the Boston rigs. “With all the extra area used on top for box storage, it made space in the compartments below for added equipment,” Shoemaker says. “When we saw the Boston truck, we realized how much custom work Unruh could put into it for us.”

Shoemaker notes that the committee also wanted to have fire suppression ability on its light rescue, and it wanted its extrication equipment to be easily accessible. The end result was a light rescue on a Ford F-550 4×4 extended cab chassis with all aluminum body, multiple slide-out trays, a polypropylene storage box in the rear compartment, and a Tri-Max 30 compressed air foam system (CAFS) skid unit.

“The Tri-Max 30 is a standalone system that runs off two self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) tanks,” Shoemaker points out. “The truck can be off when you use it or you can do pump-and-roll with it. The system is on a slide-out tray that holds a 30-gallon foam-water mix.” 

Schamle notes that Unruh Fire plumbed the Tri-Max system to the back bumper to supply two 1-inch discharges. “A 30-gallon Tri-Max system is equivalent to a 600-gallon water tank,” he says.

The light rescue truck is a single track conversion to Super Single International Race of Champions (IROC) tires that have a 6,400-pound load rating, Schamle says. The vehicle has a 3-inch lift to allow it to get places, Shoemaker says, “because we are predominantly gravel roads and pasture land, so we need a high-riding rescue truck.”

Other custom features on the light rescue, Shoemaker notes, include 110-volt household outlets in every compartment, as well as LED strip lighting in each compartment. “Some of our compartments also have 12-volt, and we have 110-volt plug-ins in the cab for the forward looking infrared (FLIR), thermal imager, night vision goggles, radio battery bank, and cell phones. The vehicle also has rub rails around the body to protect door hinges, and all lights on the front bumper are recessed. Unruh Fire built in slide-out trays that can be accessed from either side of the vehicle, Shoemaker adds. “Depending on which side you’re working on, you have access,” he says,” because you can’t always put your truck where you want it.” The trays hold a Hurst eDraulic cutter, spreader, rams, and air bags and air chisels.

The light rescue also carries “an incredible amount of lighting,” according to Shoemaker. It includes a Command Light Knight series light tower with six Whelen Pioneer LED heads, two telescoping Whelen LED Pioneer scene lights, and two remote control Golight spotlights on the cab that work independently. All the lights are run off a 8-kW hydraulic generator.

The vehicle, which has front and back receiver hitches for a 9,000-pound Warn winch, also carries come-alongs, chains, Stokes basket, spine boards, cribbing, chain saws, Sawzall, grinders, cordless impact tools and the department’s rope rescue equipment. Total cost of the light rescue was $247,000, Shoemaker says. “We finally got a truck where we could consolidate all of the equipment we need,” he adds.

The Reading Benefit Fire Department is staffed by 20 volunteer firefighters to protect a fire district of 100 square miles and 1,100 residents. The district is mostly rural but includes a gas turbine plant, part of an interstate highway, and other major state highways.

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist 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.