Apparatus, Petrillo, SOC Specialized

Rehab Capabilities Built into Custom and Multiuse Fire Apparatus

Issue 4 and Volume 21.

There are various styles and types of rehab vehicles being put in service with fire departments around the country, both dedicated rehabs and multiuse vehicles with rehab elements or equipment.

Single-Purpose Trucks

Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says his company has built both single-purpose rehab vehicles as well as rehab elements into other trucks, such as air/light, command, and rescue trucks. “I believe using a regional approach to a rehab vehicle is the better choice,” Messmer says, “because various agencies pooling their resources into a single vehicle means they can justify spending more money on the vehicle because they will be serving so many more people.”

Summit also has built rehab units on trailers, usually standard-hitch models so they can be towed by a wider variety of trucks and that are typically about 24 feet long. “We put a toilet on them that’s accessible from the outside, often an LP-fired furnace and a couple of large roof air-conditioning units so it can handle extreme conditions, access doors on each side, room for as many as 30 firefighters, a full-size refrigerator that gets connected to a shore line, folding tripod lights, and a propane-fired generator,” Messmer notes.

1 Summit Fire Apparatus has built rehab units on trailers, such as this unit that features bench seating in the back to get firefighters out of the weather, as well as plenty of storage room for rehab equipment. (Photo courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus
1 Summit Fire Apparatus has built rehab units on trailers, such as this unit that features bench seating in the back to get firefighters out of the weather, as well as plenty of storage room for rehab equipment. (Photo courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)

Shane Braun, rescue products manager for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says departments aren’t having a lot of dedicated rehab units built, but those that do are filling specific geographic needs. “We built a dedicated rehab for the Fairfax (VA) Fire Department on a two-door commercial chassis with a 24-foot box in back holding bench seating and cabinets,” Braun says. “The vehicle has a generator that runs off the truck’s engine, and it’s designed as a place to get the firefighters off the fireground.”

Braun notes that Pierce recently built a dedicated rehab unit on a Velocity tandem-rear-axle chassis with a TAK-4 independent front suspension and Neway rear air ride suspension for the Community (TX) Fire Department. Braun says the rehab truck has a 19-inch front bumper extension with a wash sink and faucets in it and three slide-out modules in the aluminum rescue body that include a lavatory. The Community rehab truck also has a 120-volt refrigerator, a 120-volt freezer, a coffeemaker, a computer network and satellite system, digital video recorders, a Will-Burt light tower, an electric awning, 50 gallons of potable water, a 60-gallon wastewater tank, a Kohler 30-kW diesel generator, and an automatic leveling and stabilizing system.

2 Awnings are features that are included on many rehab trucks, as shown here on the vehicle SVI Trucks built for the Northwest (TX) Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of the Northwest Fire Department
2 Awnings are features that are included on many rehab trucks, as shown here on the vehicle SVI Trucks built for the Northwest (TX) Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of the Northwest Fire Department.)

Bob Sorensen, vice president of SVI Trucks, says that while most of the rehab vehicles SVI has been building are combined with air/light trucks, SVI recently built a dedicated rehab truck for the Northwest (TX) Volunteer Fire Department. “It is a walk-in rehab unit that’s climate-controlled and built on a Spartan Metro Star Chassis with a 450-hp Cummins ISL 9 diesel engine and an Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmission,” Sorensen says. “It also has a lavatory that’s accessible from the left side of the vehicle, a 45-foot mast with a video camera, and an Onan 25-kW generator.”

Westley Cole, chief of the Northwest Volunteer Fire Department, says the department formerly used a bus to get firefighters cooled off at a fire scene. “The heat and humidity in the summer are real killers for us,” Cole observes. “We had SVI build the back of our rehab similar to a walk-in rescue. On the left there is bench seating for up to seven firefighters, while the right side has fold-down seating for five. There’s a refrigerator inside for water, Gatorade, and some food as well as a storage area for medical supplies because when the firefighters come into the unit, they get their vitals taken and a medical evaluation so they can be cleared for duty.”

The toilet, sink, and bathroom supplies are in the first compartment on the driver’s side of the rehab unit, Cole points out. “Behind the restroom there is extra compartmentation that holds three folding tables, 10 folding fabric chairs, and two misting fans,” he says. The rehab truck also carries six 25-quart coolers for cases of water and Gatorade. The officer side of the rig has six 6,000-pound-per-square-inch (psi) air bottles, a double-fill station, storage for ten 45-minute self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottles, and wheeled carts for the ice and water chests.

Trucks with Rehab Features

Ed Smith, director of the emergency vehicles group for VT Hackney, says most of the rehab rigs Hackney has been building are units that have been consolidated with other types of units, most often an air/light truck. “The air/light truck goes out to replenish breathing air as needed and also goes to structure fires and large-scale events, so putting the rehab facilities on it makes sense,” Smith says. “We’re putting awnings, coolers, misting fans, tables, and chairs on these units.”

Smith says Hackney has built “a mass-casualty rig with a ton of rehab on it for Wake County, North Carolina, that serves an area with a population of one million.” Hackney also built a hazmat trailer for the College Station (TX) Fire Department where the back end is a large room with fold-down seats for rehab, a refrigerator, and cases of water, Smith notes. “We’re working on an air truck with rehab facilities right now,” he adds. “It’s on a custom chassis [with a] 37-foot overall length, has benches in the back, an electric incinerating toilet in a large front compartment, misters, coolers, tables, and chairs, in addition to a large air compressor, 60 spare air bottles, and portable air bottle carts.”

3 VT Hackney built this special operations hazmat trailer for the College Station (TX) Fire Department that includes a large room at the back with fold-down seats for rehab, a refrigerator, and cases of water. (Photo courtesy of VT Hackney
3 VT Hackney built this special operations hazmat trailer for the College Station (TX) Fire Department that includes a large room at the back with fold-down seats for rehab, a refrigerator, and cases of water. (Photo courtesy of VT Hackney.)

Doug Kelley, product manager at KME, says the company has been building a lot of rescues that have some rehab capabilities, equipment, or features. “If they are walk-in rescues, there are environmental controls for heating and cooling,” Kelley says, “and likely will have awnings on the outside to provide shade or for firefighters to get out of the rain.” Idle reduction technology also is popular, he adds, where a generator is used to power the rehab area and the truck’s basic loads without running the chassis engine.

Kelly points out that often rescue trucks will have added seating in the crew cab so that firefighters can sit and get out of the weather to either cool down or warm up. “A lot of the walk-in rescues usually have counter space and electrical outlets inside for coffeemakers and microwaves,” he says. “Each department does rehab differently, so you might find folding chairs, pop-up tents, and water mister units on a combination rescue-rehab truck.”

4 Rehab equipment, such as this large awning, are often built into other types of vehicles like this heavy rescue built by KME for the Friendship Fire Company in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of KME
4 Rehab equipment, such as this large awning, are often built into other types of vehicles like this heavy rescue built by KME for the Friendship Fire Company in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of KME.)

Bill Himstedt, director of rescue sales and product management for E-ONE, says most fire departments can’t justify the cost of a single-purpose rehab vehicle. “More fire departments want rehab integrated into another product,” Himstedt says. “These are usually heavy rescues with walk-in areas that are climate-controlled that fit the bill for rehab. You’ll also see refrigerators, coffeemakers, microwaves, awnings-both manual and electric-and some tent configurations.”

Himstedt says E-ONE built two medium-size walk-in rescues that are used for rehab for Central Elgin Fire and Rescue in Ontario, Canada. “They’re on Freightliner chassis with 18-foot customized walk-in bodies,” he says. “The back has heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), bench seats that could be additional riding positions, and also fold-down seats for additional rehab.” For the Plattsburgh (NY) Fire Department, E-ONE built a rescue-rehab truck on an International chassis with a 20-foot body, an extra air-conditioning unit on the back, and a lot of bench seating, Himstedt adds.

5 Central Elgin Fire and Rescue in Ontario, Canada, had E-ONE built two medium walk-in rescues that are also used for rehab. (Photo courtesy of E-ONE
5 Central Elgin Fire and Rescue in Ontario, Canada, had E-ONE built two medium walk-in rescues that are also used for rehab. (Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)

Mike Marquis, vice president, rescue sales, for Rescue 1, says his company also is seeing rehab on rescues when departments try to multitask their vehicles. “It’s usually a large area in the cab where firefighters can hang out in cold or warm weather,” Marquis says, “and an outside awning that provides an extended area to get out of the sun or the weather. The awnings usually are installed on the curbside, but a lot of fire departments are putting them on both sides of the truck.”

Marquis points out that 90 percent of the awnings Rescue 1 installs are electrically operated. “They’re recessed into the upper cove of the truck and extend about 10 feet out from the body,” he says. “We also install manual awnings, which have no vertical support and are surface-mounted to the side of the truck.” Marquis adds that microwaves, coffeemakers, and refrigerators have become commonplace in rehab units.

6 Rescue 1 built this heavy rescue for the Amelia County (VA) Volunteer Fire Department that included an awning on the curbside of the vehicle along with other rehab elements. (Photo courtesy of Rescue 1
6 Rescue 1 built this heavy rescue for the Amelia County (VA) Volunteer Fire Department that included an awning on the curbside of the vehicle along with other rehab elements. (Photo courtesy of Rescue 1.)

Michael Cox, vice president of sales for Emergency Vehicles Inc. (EVI), says EVI built a rehab-canteen truck for the Boston Sparks Association, a nonprofit group that assists the Boston (MA) Fire Department. “Half of the truck is a canteen, and the other half is a rehab unit with misters and the coolers,” Cox says. “It’s built on an International chassis with an 18-foot crew body and is powered by a MaxxForce 260-hp diesel engine and an Allison 2200 EVS automatic transmission.”

Cox notes the canteen portion has a refrigerator and freezer, a steam table for heating food, a hot dog steamer, and a commercial coffeemaker. The unit carries 35 gallons of fresh water and has a 40-gallon gray water tank. Cox points out that EVI has also built rehab features into rescue trucks and hazmat vehicles, where water coolers and refrigerators were built into outside compartments as well as carried inside near a command area.

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.