Compartment Corner: Berkshire (NY) Brush/Rescue Unit

Engine 131 is a 2007 Chevy C5500 with a Custom Fab and Body rescue style body.

By Michael N. Ciampo

The Berkshire (NY) Fire District is located in the beautiful foothills of the Adirondack mountains in the Town of Johnstown in Fulton County, New York. The area is both scenic and rural with rolling hills and farmland among forest and mountains. It is home to many residents as well as a tourist retreat, where people come to visit to enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty. The department was established in 1950 and currently operates Engine 131, which is a smaller unit than some of its larger pumpers. It’s primarily used for brush fires, vehicle extrications, and off roadway incidents. The department purchased the Chevy C550 crew cab and had Custom Fab and Body build it an aluminum body for the chassis. Custom Fab and Body is located in Marion, Wisconsin, and was created in 1994. It builds vehicles for fire departments that include pumpers, mini pumpers, rescue, and field communication units. It also builds skid units and refurbishes pumpers and tankers. Along with serving the fire service, it also builds utility truck bodies and fabricates custom products for the military, rock crusher, parts, and utility providers.

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Engine 131 is a 2007 Chevy C550 mini pumper, four-wheel-drive with a four-door crew cab and aluminum rescue-style body. It responds first due for car accidents, brush fires, and off-road incidents that may include snowmobiles, mountain bikes, and motorcycle accidents. The unit is powered by a 330-hp diesel engine and has an Allison automatic transmission. There is a 300-gallon United Plastics water tank that supplies a Hale AP 500 pump with a side-control pump panel. Over the pump panel, the engine has two crosslay hose storage trays equipped with 100 feet and 150 feet of two-inch hose. It is equipped with ROM aluminum roll-up doors that aren’t painted. The rig is painted white over red, with white on the cab’s hood, roof, and upper portion of the doors and all red on the rescue body. There are two thin yellow safety stripes outlining a large white stripe that run along the lower portion of the cab and make a “Z” on the first compartment on the rescue body, then run along the mid portion of the vehicle toward the rear. The stripes continue around the back of the apparatus and stop near the fold-down access steps. On the upper portion of the body in gold leaf stickers, the words Fire Rescue adorn the rig. The center compartment over the wheel well has a Tasmanian Devil logo with a hoseline and hydraulic spreaders in his hands attached to it. The front cab doors have gold leaf stickers which read: Berkshire Fire Dist. Town of Johnstown; while the rear cab doors have a Berkshire Fire Dept. Maltese Crosses on them.

The vehicle is equipped with a Code 3 emergency lighting package and has two permanently mounted FRC 500-Watt telescoping scene lights mounted to the front of the rescue body. There are also two FRC tripod scene lights mounted on the rear of the rescue body that are detachable and can be moved to other locations when arriving on scene. The rig carries a Ramsey 8,000-pound removable winch, which can be used in either the front or rear bumper mounting points. There are three Hannay reels on the apparatus: one is for electrical power, and the other two are for hydraulic lines for extrication equipment. The unit has a 6-kW Honda generator on it to power the lights and cord reel. Inside the crew cab, the unit is outfitted with three FlameFighter bolt-in SCBA seat modules, with one being in the officer’s seat and the others located in the two jump seats in the rear of the cab. The unit carries 500 feet of LDH hose in the upper hosebed, and in the storage compartment just beneath, there are three hard suctions stored for drafting operations, an attic ladder, and some pike poles. This compartment is the only compartment without roll-up doors and also allows for storage of three smaller three-inch suctions, which are used with the company’s portable pump, often for drafting operations or basement pump-outs.

Engine 131 is a 2007 Chevy C5500 with a Custom Fab and Body rescue style body.

Engine 131 has hydraulic extrication tools carried in the first compartment back from the pump panel on the driver’s side of the rig. Mounted permanently to the top of the compartment are the two hydraulic reels, offering the unit to operate two tools at the same time. They have electric rewinds and two different color-coded hose combinations so they aren’t inadvertently mixed up during operations—one reel has blue and red, while the other has blue and yellow. On the upper roll-out shelf, the unit’s spreader and cutter are already hooked into the hydraulic lines so they’re ready to be put in service immediately when arriving at an auto extrication. Mounted on the upper right-hand side wall is a handheld window cutting extrication tool and a small tool inventory list that helps with vehicle checks during inspections or after scene operations. On the lower roll-out shelf there are a hydraulic ram, additional cutter, and a portable hydraulic power unit. Mounted on the left-hand side wall at this level are two spanner wrenches, accessible for the driver for when they’re hooking up hoselines to the pump panel.

The rear compartment on Engine 131 has a variety of equipment stored in it but is basically for brush fire operations. The bottom storage area has a vertical pull-out storage rack mounted in it. The front of the pull-out stores the pump’s strainer, extra hose washers, rubber mallet, spanner wrenches, and some different size fittings. The rear side of this pull-out has more spanner wrenches and four additional large fittings mounted on it. The middle shelf in this compartment stores extra air cylinders for use with air-powered rescue tools and some extra hydraulic hose for extrication equipment. The upper shelf holds smaller garden hoses for brush fires and for decontamination operations. There are also some safety blankets used for extrication and blue tarps, and Tyvek Suits are also stored there. Mounted on the right-hand side wall of this compartment are a pressurized water extinguisher and Purple K chemical extinguisher.

The Berkshire Fire District had the foresight to make this unit operate in more than one capacity for the needs of the community it serves. Although it operates on a small budget and in a rural community, it has plenty of pride in its apparatus and providing fire and rescue protection to the citizens and visitors it serves.

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 34-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 International 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

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