special Delivery Alan M. Petrillo
The San Diego (CA) Fire Authority recently took delivery and began training on an urban search and rescue (USAR) heavy rescue built by SVI Trucks that’s staffed by CAL FIRE firefighters.
Bob Sorensen, vice president of SVI Trucks, says, “It had to be a particular size in order to get all the equipment they needed on it and yet still fit on a single-rear-axle configuration. We built the truck on a Spartan Metro Star LFD with a 20-inch raised roof with a 20-foot all-aluminum walk-around body, on a 215½-inch wheelbase, an overall length of 35 feet 1 inch, and overall height of 11 feet.”
Sorensen points out the heavy rescue is powered by a Cummins 450-horsepower ISL9 engine and an Allison 3000 EVS automatic transmission. The vehicle carries a Whelen warning light package, six Whelen Pioneer LED scene lights (two on each side and two at the rear), a Command Light CL series light tower, a Command Light Traffic Flow Model V5 Board, a Gerard G-2000 automatic retractable awning, OnScene Solutions LED compartment lights, Amdor roll-up compartment doors, and OnScene Solutions cargo slides.
“The heavy rescue has seating for six firefighters, and there is access to emergency medical service cabinets from both sides of the cab,” Sorensen says. “The rescue has a 20-foot walk-around aluminum body, and the cab has a command space with a pull-out desk that’s in a cabinet situated above the engine tunnel.” He adds that the body contains a small compartment in the back of the vehicle for an air compressor that is connected to the chassis power takeoff to allow the unit to run air jackhammers and nailers. Another compartment carries two air ports, one for low-volume and the other for high-output air.
James Weber, inside sales manager for Emergency Vehicle Group, who sold the rig to San Diego, says the apparatus and equipment on the vehicle were purchased by San Diego County, and the rig is staffed by CAL FIRE firefighters. “They had some time constraints on when they needed the truck, which was a quicker build for a vehicle with so much equipment on it,” Weber points out, “so it was a hard, difficult challenge to get done, but it all went very smoothly and we hit their target.”
Kurt Zingheim, battalion chief at the CAL FIRE San Diego unit, says San Diego’s apparatus committee spent a year researching various kinds of USAR apparatus, both single- and dual-rear-axle models. “The committee ultimately was comfortable with a single rear axle carrying all the inventory that we required,” Zingheim says. “This is a Type 1 USAR vehicle, which has to meet certain equipment specifications determined by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which means we carry additional breaching equipment, more specialized equipment, extra swift water components, and air monitoring equipment.”
Sorensen notes that San Diego Fire shipped all of its rescue and USAR equipment to the SVI plant in Colorado where SVI mounted everything in consultation with San Diego apparatus committee member input. “They asked us to suggest how we would lay out the truck, which we did,” Sorensen says, “and then they made suggestions for changes, which we accommodated. The San Diego firefighters came out to Colorado and worked with our guys for five days to get everything placed properly. Before that, we were conferring by e-mail and Internet about equipment placement.”
Zingheim notes that the USAR truck has all slide-out and drop-down trays, as well as slide-out tool boards. “SVI showed us 3D computer-generated diagrams of where the equipment would be mounted, which was then done under the direct supervision of one of our apparatus committee personnel,” he says. “In a number of cases, SVI custom manufactured brackets for specific individual tools. We were very impressed with them because they had previously built a number of California rescue units with similar equipment mountings.”
As the USAR program grows in San Diego county, Zingheim notes that the fire authority plans to purchase another similar USAR heavy rescue in the future, as well as replace an older Type 2 USAR rescue after that. In the meantime, San Diego recently took delivery of four Type 1 interface engines that have aggressive angles of approach and departure, short wheelbases, and short overall lengths. The engines carry 1,500-gallon-per-minute main pumps, 500-gallon water tanks, and auxiliary pumps for pump and roll, as well as full structural firefighting equipment complements and 900 feet of wildland hose and ancillary wildland equipment.
Zingheim says that because the rigs often will be placed at 45-degree angles to deflect traffic in a highway lane, San Diego requested an unusual set of side lighting on the vehicles. “We have arrow sticks on the sides of the apparatus, so when we park on a 45-degree angle on a highway, eight pod lights down the side of the apparatus act as arrow sticks to show the angle of the hazard,” he says.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and 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.