Apparatus, Pierce, Rescues

Commack (NY) Big Rescue

Issue 1 and Volume 24.


The Commack (NY) Fire Department, located on the north shore of Suffolk County, New York, was in the planning stages to have a new heavy rescue vehicle built for its response district. The older vehicle, according to Lieutenant Chris Ciaccio, was more than 20 years old and was beginning to have some maintenance issues. The department also had outgrown the older unit.


The response district consists of four stations located throughout a 12-square-mile area. It is congested with strip shopping centers, schools, medical facilities, big-box stores, hotels, condos, restaurants, and just about every other type of commercial and residential area. There was definitely a need to go with a larger updated heavy rescue vehicle to respond to all types of auto accidents and technical rescue incidents throughout the area.


The old heavy rescue was built in 1999 and had smaller compartments. Since that time, the department had purchased a box truck to hold all of its additional technical rescue tools and, if needed, responded with both trucks to a scene. “We also felt that we actually lost compartment space for equipment with the slide-out trays we had installed in the older unit, which at the time was the way to go,” says Ciaccio. “Subsequently, we took the box truck out of service and had all of that equipment stored all over our fire headquarters.”

The Commack (NY) Fire Department’s 42-foot heavy rescue is built on a Pierce Velocity cab and chassis. (Photos by author.)

1 The Commack (NY) Fire Department’s 42-foot heavy rescue is built on a Pierce Velocity cab and chassis. (Photos by author.)

Compartments holding vehicle extrication tools, hydraulic and electric reels, struts, and spare self-contained breathing apparatus cylinders.

2 Compartments holding vehicle extrication tools, hydraulic and electric reels, struts, and spare self-contained breathing apparatus cylinders.

Compartments with saws, portable fans, air bags, forcible entry tools, and hand tools.

3 Compartments with saws, portable fans, air bags, forcible entry tools, and hand tools.

In the beginning of 2017, the department’s truck committee got together and started working on the specs for a new rescue. Ciaccio says, “Some of the parameters we decided on were that we needed much more larger compartment space, to install better scene lighting, and to take the fixed front-bumper-mounted winch off. We wanted to be able to winch off all sides of the new vehicle. We also designed the compartments so that all of our equipment—no matter what it is—will have a dedicated space on the new rescue. Because of designing the rig this way, we had to increase the body size significantly on the truck.”

Added were additional Paratech struts and stabilization equipment, rope rescue tools and Stokes baskets, and a 9,000-pound Warn winch. Also added was a mini refrigerator to carry water and Gatorade for rehab purposes. The vehicle also carries a normal complement of heavy rescue tools, such as rams and cutters, as well as truck company and forcible entry tools. “We also decided to stay with a more traditional walk-in style rescue box, as our members are used to responding this way, and it also gives us room should we need it for rehab,” says Ciacco.

The bid went to Pierce Manufacturing and its local dealer, Firematic. According to Ciacco, “Our fire district has dealt with both before with great results. They are always easy to deal with, especially with service after the sale. The factory visits also went well, and any changes that were made were minor and were taken care of while we were at the factory.”


Ciacco says the department added a great deal more safety features this time around—most were not available when it ordered its older rescue vehicle back in 1999. One feature is the Pierce Command Zone electronics system with cameras located in several areas outside the truck. Command Zone provides for a larger display screen in the cab that shows error codes to tell users if there is a problem and is more user-friendly to determine any problems, says Ciacco.

The vehicle also has collision avoidance and rollover sensors built into the front bumper. The system works through collision mitigation and electronic stability control.

Collision mitigation detects objects up to 650 feet away and in adjacent lanes, provides audible and visual driver alerts for potential rear-end collisions, applies the service brake up to 50 percent in the event of an impending collision, provides audible and visual driver alerts for potential stationary object collision, and uses the Meritor Wabco OnGuard™ far- and near-range self-aligning radar sensor collision mitigation system.

Electronic stability control (ESC) is an automatic safety management braking system that enhances the directional and roll stability of fire apparatus during evasive maneuvers. It monitors lateral acceleration (cornering) of the vehicle and activates when the critical roll threshold is met. It automatically reduces engine revolutions per minute, applies the engine retarder (if so equipped), and selectively applies brakes to individual wheel ends of the front and rear axles to assist bringing the vehicle back to its intended direction. ESC also reduces the possibility of the vehicle rolling on its side. It monitors directional stability through sensors and compares the actual direction of the vehicle vs. the direction of travel. It also reduces the possibility of spinouts or drift outs, even in poor traction conditions. “Both are definitely a great advancement that will serve us well into the future and protect our firefighters riding,” says Ciacco.

Rear chevron striping, Whelen LED lights, and scene lights.

4 Rear chevron striping, Whelen LED lights, and scene lights.

Ciacco says the vehicle operates well even though the larger size takes a little bit of getting used to for the department’s drivers. “But, the vehicle handles well for its size and weight,” he adds. “The best thing is we have extra room to expand and add additional equipment in the future if needed.”

The Commack Fire Department is a progressively active fire department responding to a variety of different types of incidents. It has been proactive in designing functional fire apparatus for the past several years for its response district. This purchase should serve it well into the future. The apparatus purchasing committee planned not only for the current load of tools and equipment that the department currently needs but also for added space should it decide to add additional equipment in the future.

Planning for the future should always be everyone’s mindset when working on specs for a new apparatus. Don’t just design and build for the present time. Work out of the box if your budget can allow it. It’s better to have extra space to work with than to have cramped compartments and no room to add on when you take delivery. It seems the Commack Fire Department did just that.

BOB VACCARO has more than 40 years of fire service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (NY) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol, and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. He is a life member of the IAFC.