Specialized Vehicles for Rescue and Wildland Scenarios

By Alan M. Petrillo


Utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), 4×4 sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and 4×4 pickup trucks have gained in popularity as emergency rescue vehicles that can get into places traditional fire apparatus cannot approach.


These specialized vehicles, made by a large number of manufacturers, differ in what they are able to accomplish, how many people they can carry, and the amount of onboard equipment.

Kimtek Corp. makes four medical rescue units
1 Kimtek Corp. makes four medical rescue units, including this MedLite Transport MTB-101 set up to carry a driver, an attendant, and a patient on either a long board or in a Stokes. The unit is mounted on a 4×4 John Deere Gator. (Photo courtesy of Kimtek Corp.)

Medical Units

Kimtek Corp. makes four medical units that fit into and become a part of the cargo boxes of UTVs, according to Kimball W. Johnson, president of the company. “The basic model is our MedLite Transport MTB-101, which can carry an attendant and a patient on a long board or Stokes,” Johnson says. “The next two models are the MTS-102 MedLite Transport Standard and the MTS-103 MedLite Transport Deluxe. The fourth unit is the MedLite Transport MTSTR-104.”

The Standard unit, Johnson points out, has a three-position guidelock seat and seat belt, an area for walking wounded, a rescue area for a long board or Stokes, a retractable IV pole, nine cubic feet of enclosed storage for trauma bags, and an automated external defibrillator (AED). The Deluxe unit adds a holder on deck for a standard oxygen bottle and regulator, a slide-out tray, grab bars, and an additional attendant rail. The Transport is a cot unit that can accept a full-size Stryker or Ferno wheeled stretcher.

“These medical units will fit on Polaris, John Deere Gator, and other UTVs,” Johnson points out. “They are being used in a lot of off-road rescues and aren’t restricted to rural areas anymore. We’re finding them in urban interfaces, especially where towns have narrow trails systems that don’t have the egress for a standard ambulance.”

Kimtek also makes the MedLite MTD102
2 Kimtek also makes the MedLite MTD102, shown here on a six-wheel Polaris utility terrain vehicle. It can carry a driver, a passenger, an attendant, and a patient, along with medical gear. (Photo courtesy of Kimtek Corp.)

Amphibious Vehicles

Jim Gonzales, marketing director of Argo Southwest, notes his company makes both six- and eight-wheel Argo fire and rescue vehicles. “The eight-wheel version comes in two models for rescue-the 750HDI and the Cintaur commercial version,” Gonzales says. “Both are fully amphibious, moving from land to water and back with no changes; can seat up to six persons; and can be equipped with stretchers for rescue scenarios. We also can mount spraying devices on them for fire suppression.”

Gonzales points out that the 750HDI model is the one chosen by the majority of fire departments and emergency medical service (EMS) providers for rescue purposes. “It’s powered by a Kohler Aegis 31-horsepower 748-cubic centimeter liquid-cooled engine that makes it versatile at altitude,” Gonzales says. “It has an electric starter, hydraulic brakes, and an Admiral transmission, which requires less power to maneuver. This unit can turn on a dime.”

“We also make the Cintaur, which is a little larger and has a cab and heavy duty bed on the back,” he adds.

Argo Southwest can install 18-inch rubber tracks on its units to allow the rigs to go through mud and snow and over very rocky terrain. The Argo is designed to accept a Ferno No. 9 stretcher or a Ferno basket. “The front bench seat is repositioned by folding down, and the stretcher goes into a frame,” Gonzales says. “You still can have a driver and a couple of other personnel on board along with the patient.”

He notes that the Argo has seven hours of running time on one tank of gasoline, running at a top speed of approximately 20 miles per hour.

Argo Southwest makes both six- and eight-wheel rescue vehicles
3 Argo Southwest makes both six- and eight-wheel rescue vehicles, with the 750HDI model, shown here, being most popular with fire departments. The units are amphibious and can seat up to six persons or be equipped to carry a backboard, Ferno No. 9 cot, or Ferno stretcher. (Photo courtesy of Argo Southwest.)

Rescue Units

Jason Johnson, sales manager for Alternative Support Apparatus (ASAP), says ASAP makes the Select series of open-platform rescue units (Transporter and Trail Rescue) and the MedStat, a patented vehicle that he calls “the only fully enclosed patient compartment on an ATV or UTV.”

MedStat is built on a Polaris Ranger 6×6 chassis, he notes, powered by an 800-cc, 45-hp gasoline engine, although diesel-powered units are available as well. “But, 95 percent of the units we build are gasoline-powered,” he notes.

Johnson says the patient compartment is built with heating, air conditioning, electrical power for 12- and 110-volt, cabinetry, and lighting packages. “It’s a climate-controlled box that can take a full-size Striker or Ferno cot,” he says. The chassis is the same across all three models the company makes, and storage boxes, typically under the seats, can be added to any model.

Kevin Quinn, owner of E.J. Metals Inc., says his company makes the Assault Force 70 two-passenger and four-passenger 70.4 units on Kubota chassis, with the rigs being outfitted for either wildland or rescue work or both. “We’ll build a fire package, an EMS unit, or a combination of the two,” Quinn points out. “All the models can have their cabs enclosed if desired, either hard or soft shell, with windshield wipers and heaters inside. Our 1100 and 1120 models can have both heat and air conditioning.”

Quinn notes that the units have been tilt-table tested to 24 degrees and that a chassis fully loaded to 1,600 pounds can still tow a trailer holding 1,300 pounds or a 150-gallon water tank.

E.J. Metals makes the Assault force rescue units
4 E.J. Metals makes the Assault force rescue units in two versions on Kubota chassis and designs them for either rescue, firefighting, or both. (Photo courtesy of E.J. Metals.)

Water Rescue Vehicles

In terms of water rescue, Bombadier Recreational Products Inc. makes the Sea-Doo SAR (Search and Rescue), a watercraft designed for emergency response operations. The craft has a moderate V hull, seats three, and has a weight capacity of 650 pounds. Its engine is a 1,494-cc 1503 NA Rotax 4-TEC that performs in both fresh and salt water.

Mark Phillips, business development manager for Bombadier, says the Sea-Doo SAR has sponsons and running boards that add stability and buoyancy in surf and white water, while its heavy-duty front bumper and elastomer hull coating are adapted to navigate along rocky coasts.

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is 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.

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