Santa Barbara Fire Department Steps Up To Heavy-Rescue

Type I Urban Search and Rescue vehicle
Members of the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Fire Department has a Type I Urban Search and Rescue vehicle in service made by SVI Trucks. It responds to all major types of transportation venues, including highways, interstates and airports as well as beaches and mountains. (SVI Trucks)

Of the 88 Urban Search And Rescue (USAR) units in California, 41 have the top Type I state certification. The Santa Barbara City Fire Department (SBFD) recently joined that group. The new rating was possible due to the purchase of a new SVI heavy rescue vehicle and additional crew training.

The 112 member department serves a population of 100,000 and responds to all major types of transportation venues including highways, interstate highways, rail, a harbor, and an airport, as well as beaches and mountains. The Type I rating comes with the responsibility of responding state-wide, as necessary, according to SBFD Battalion Commander Jim Bryden.

Built By SVI Trucks

The department’s $450,000 heavy rescue unit was built by SVI Trucks of Loveland, Colo., delivered in March 2006, outfitted in May and certified by state officials in November.

“I wanted us to become a Type I department,” Bryden said. “This unit was designed to carry the additional equipment required for the higher rating.” The state of California is specific about compulsory equipment for certification.

“There were previous incidents where we were limited with our old Type II unit,” he said. “For example, there was a major mud slide in LaConchita before our SVI was acquired. Dozens of homes were lost and we were involved in this week-long incident. Most of our time was spent digging and shoring. We needed listening devices and search cameras. We were fortunate because, although our medium duty unit did not have this electronic equipment, we were able to borrow it from other departments. About eight people were rescued and many other bodies were recovered.”

Researching Costs

Bryden researched the costs associated with all the required equipment to obtain a Type I rating and then wrote a successful competitive state grant to fund SBFD’s needs. In addition, every crew member had to take additional training that included: EMT I certification; classes in Emergency Systems I & II; Emergency Trench Shoring and Rescue, and Confined Space Rescue.

Not all state requirements speak to technology. Bryden cited the state regulation, ICS-USAR-120-1, requiring Type I rescue units to have available: eight 4-by-8-foot sheets of 3/4-inch plywood; eight 2-by-8-inch planks, each 8 feet long; 24 4-by-4-inch planks, each  8 feet long; and additional cribbing materials such as wedges. Rather than relying on acquiring those materials near the incident scene, or using a second vehicle, all required materials fit into areas designed into the vehicle.

“When we roll, every required material and tool rides with us,” said Bryden. Fortunately, there has not been a serious incident since the vehicle went online in November 2006, but when it happens, he said the Santa Barbara department will be ready.

Many new features of the SVI vehicle are much appreciated by Bryden. An 8,000-watt Command Light lighting tower is roof mounted providing stadium-style light and is necessary to meet the state requirement for a heavy rescue certification. “The device really lights up a scene,” he said.

Also located on the roof is a center walk and storage for bulky, large equipment. Long, top-hinged cabinets contain rope bags as well as additional bulky equipment. All cutting equipment is found on one side, and stabilizing equipment is located on the other. All equipment is organized by function. Extrication tools are plumbed in, as are air-driven tools.

An area in the cab was configured for mandatory high-tech equipment, such as air quality monitors, a Snake Eye search camera and a Delfar listening device. The area is supported with 120-volt power strips that continually charge this equipment, eliminating the possibility of discharged equipment on the scene.

The bulk of funding for the heavy rescue unit was made available as part of the city’s scheduled 15-year replacement schedule. “While it might be somewhat unusual, all our vehicles are owned by the city Public Works Department,” Bryden said. Public works also provides mechanical servicing for the vehicles. As a result, the designated mechanic was part of the acquisition process from the beginning of the design phase, right through delivery.”

Spartan Gladiator Chassis

Built on a Spartan Gladiator classic LFD, with a 10-inch raised roof, the new SVI unit has a gross vehicle weight rating of 44,000 pounds and a wheelbase of 215 inches. The Detroit Series 60 455 hp engine is mated to an Allison EVP transmission. Other options include a 16-inch extended bumper with tool storage compartments, a recessed Q2B siren, two 24-inch Suttertone air horns, and a 100-watt CPI speaker.

There is seating for six people, two custom cabinets with roll-up doors and adjustable shelving, and slide-out desk with cabinets, radio and map box console, four mounted Streamlight Liteboxes, and a Sigtronics intercom system.

The 20-foot, 3/16-inch formed aluminum walk-around body, has streetside and curbside awnings, two 1,000-pound transverse slide-out trays, two 1,000-pound slide-out trays, eight out-down trays, eight 500-pound slide out trays, two adjustable tool boards, adjustable shelving, a transverse module for a Stokes basket and pipe storage.

Plenty Of Storage

It also has storage for the state-mandated lumber, two electric reels, hydraulic reel air bag storage, underbody slide out steps, two fender-mounted receivers, six underbody receivers for tie-off points and A-frame use, three rear-mounted receivers, and two front-mounted receivers.

The rear stairway has integrated compartments, two long lumber storage compartments, as well as storage for ladders. There are rear-mounted tow eyes, rear-mounted CPI air connection boxes, upper body compartments, vertical exhaust, and roof mounted tie-offs for high-angle rescue.

The Boss 160 CFM PTO-driven industrial air system is rated at 125 psi. There are air connection boxes mounted to the rear of the truck along with one 1.5-inch NST connection and one Schrader-type air fitting. A digital control panel is located in the curbside #1 compartment.

An Onan 25,000-watt pto-driven generator has interior and exterior outlets. It feeds two electric reels with 175 feet of 10/3 SOWY cable and two rear-mounted FRC focus 500-watt tripod lights.

The overall length of the SVI is 34 feet, 11 inches; width is 8 feet, 4 inches; and height is 11 feet, 8 inches. Delivered weights are front, 18,340 pounds, and rear, 16,220 pounds, for a total of 34,560 pounds.

For information call 888-784-1112 or go to

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