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Compartment Corner: Orchard Park (NY) Heavy Rescue

Orchard Park’s Heavy Rescue 7 Rescue 1/Spartan fire apparatus.

By Michael N. Ciampo

The Orchard Park (NY) Fire Company is located in Erie County in the western section of the state. It is one of the “Southtowns” (which gets a significant amount of snowfall because of its location off the Great Lakes) and a southeast suburb of the City of Buffalo. The town is home to New Era Field, home of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills. The department was incorporated in 1883, serving the Hamlet of Orchard Park and the Town of East Hamburg. Today they are part of the Orchard Park Fire District, which comprises the Orchard Park VFD, Windom VFD, and Hillcrest VFD servicing the town of Orchard Park. The department was originally outfitted with buckets and a ladder for firefighting purposes. In the early 1900s, It was lucky and acquired a building, and just prior to World War I it purchased its first apparatus, a horse-drawn wagon with a motorized pump on it. Shortly after, the department added a chemical truck to its fire apparatus inventory.

As the company evolved, it had a 1937 Buick “Special Sedan” ambulance that was its first rescue vehicle. Unfortunately, the vehicle was involved in a tragic accident that claimed the lives of two residents. After the accident, the vehicle was restored and turned into an “open-air” rescue wagon. For most fire apparatus enthusiasts, this is truly a one-of-a-kind piece of history and vehicle. It has no cab doors and is painted white with gold leaf signage and the rear is open-ended, so the stretcher can be slid inward between two long boxes that carried first aid equipment. There is a canvas cover to protect the patient and the firefighters which rode on the apparatus on those frigid nights in Western New York. After it was placed out of service, it was used at a Nunnery and then a local farm and received a second restoration years later. It is now prominently displayed in the firehouse’s showroom. Also stored in this showroom, is an iconic and beautiful open-cab 1936 Buffalo engine made by the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation. It has a 534 cubic inch Hercules “straight 6” gas engine, manual transmission, and gear-driven pump which still can pump to this day.

Current Rescue Rig
In 2018, the department took delivery of its newest rescue, a Spartan Gladiator ELFD with a 24” raised roof and Rescue 1 20’ walk-around heavy rescue body. The rig is painted white over red, except for the R.O.M. roll-up compartment doors on the rescue body. There is a large white reflective stripe that has four smaller pinstripes on it (two at the top, two at the bottom) that runs from the front of the apparatus along the lower portion of the cab and rescue body. On the front cab doors there is a very unique logo of a Quaker with the “OP” initials inside the face. This logo pays tribute to the original settlement of Quakers who settled in the area known as the “uncultivated part of nature’s garden” in the early 1800s. On the crew cab doors, there is signage for the Orchard Park Fire Co. and Orchard Park Fire District beneath it. There is a 7 inside a Maltese Cross on each side of the cab as well as large 7s on the crew cab window. There is large Heavy 7 Rescue signage on the top sides of the rescue body. The rear of the rig has reflective DOT chevrons and on the rear roll-up compartment door, there is Orchard Park R-7 and the department’s patch attached to the door. The department patch also pays homage to the Quakers, and the patch can also be seen on the four hitch covers for the removable winch’s receiver points.


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The apparatus is powered by a Cummins 500-hp ISX12 engine with a VG Turbo auxiliary engine brake and has an Allison 4000 automatic transmission with key pad selection. The double chassis frame rails are powder-coated and painted for corrosion protection with a lifetime warranty. The apparatus is also equipped with air bags located throughout the cab and have orange ID tag locators. The cab has a 28” extended front bumper with a compartment for HURST eDRAULIC tools in it and Grover air horns and Federal Q2B electric siren recessed in it. There are heated mirrors and a backup camera that have right-hand and left-hand views on it. The grab handles are all lighted and activate when the parking brake is applied. The cab is a tilt cab and seats two in the front (officer and driver) and six firefighters in the back. The seats also have the company’s patch design embroidered into the seats’ headrests. The rig is also equipped with Whelen warning lights and scene lighting all around the body. There is also a Will-Burt Nightscan Powerlite tower, with six 1,500-watt quartz halogen light heads, that is powered by an Onan 35-kW PTO generator. The upper body of the rig also boasts coffin compartments for additional storage and a top-mount Speedi-dry hopper for hazardous material spills. Access to these compartments is from a Zico rear access ladder mounted on the left rear of the apparatus.

Rescue 7’s auto extrication package carries a significant assortment of tools, primarily because it responds to severe auto and tractor trailer accidents on the NYS Thruway. The extrication tools are powered by a 10,000-psi Hurst hydraulic generator, which operates its cutter and spreader. The tools are mounted on two reels mounted in the rear compartment, while the power unit is in another compartment. The spreader and cutter sit on the lower pull-out tray and are preattached to the hydraulic lines and reels, which are mounted in the upper section of the compartment. There are also two HURST rams stored on this lower tray, but they are not preconnected. There is also a storage container on the lower tray, which holds ear and eye protection for the firefighters.

In the upper portion of the rear compartment is a large pull-out tray with vertical and flat storage. The large tray has Milwaukee portable tripod lights and smaller portable battery-operated lights on it. The large divider has safety signage attached to a bracket and stop signs, used at accident scenes. On the rear of the tray, there are numerous items stored on brackets or in storage boxes. They include a Warn winch, short sections of hose to cover car posts, chains, rocker panel support brackets, rigging equipment, hand tools, and extra lubricants. The left rear compartment on the rig also has a portable HURST power pack (used for off road incidents) and extra hydraulic hoses stored in it. Heavy Rescue 7’s other complement of extrication tools is a Hurst eDRAULIC spreader and cutter in the front bumper compartment with two battery chargers and two back-up batteries.

The heavy rescue unit also has a full complement of Vetter Lifting bags, Rescue 42 vehicle stabilization struts, a Petrogen Torch, ice and water rescue equipment, ice and water rescue sled, and rope rescue equipment. The department has come a long way since its days of riding in the open cab Buick Rescue Sedan, but one thing is for certain: the pride and dedication to serving its community is as strong as ever as can be seen by its rescue equipment and apparatus.

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 33-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is the lead instructor for the FDIC Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladders and Ventilation chapters for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and the Bread and Butter Portable Ladders DVD and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.FireEngineering.com. He also writes the back page column ON FIRE in Fire Engineering.