Specialty Rescue Trucks and Trailers Equip Fire Department Fleets

Many fire departments around the country are equipping their fleets with specialty rescue trucks and trailers for specialty operations.
Many fire departments around the country are equipping their fleets with specialty rescue trucks and trailers for specialty operations such as dive, collapse/trench, high- and low-angle, and confined space rescues as well as hazardous materials.

Responding to departments’ needs, the types of specialty rescues coming off manufacturers’ production lines vary from single-discipline units to rigs equipped to handle several specialties.

Nic Kirvida, municipal fleet sales manager for Rosenbauer, says that Rosenbauer built a heavy rescue for the Rogers (AR) Fire Department’s special operations team. “The department wanted a high-risk-/low-frequency-use rig that would be outfitted for nine disciplines so it could respond with one vehicle and be well prepared for any need,” Kirvida says. “The truck is set up to handle hazardous materials; swift water, high-angle, low-angle, collapse, trench, and confined space rescue; dive operations; and motor vehicle accidents.”

 Rosenbauer built this heavy specialty rescue truck that is set up to handle nine rescue disciplines for the Rogers (AR) Fire Department’s special operations team. (Photo 1 courtesy of Rosenbauer.)

The rig has three transverse compartments between the cab and rear wheels and a rear walk-in area that’s 12 feet deep with interior coffin compartments at chest level for dive team equipment and hazardous materials gear, Kirvida notes; it also carries an inflatable boat in an outside compartment. Underneath the rear walk-in is a full-depth lumber storage compartment.

Rosenbauer also built a multidiscipline specialty rescue for the Provo (UT) Fire Department, Kirvida says: a walk-around vehicle with a pull-out slide mounted to the ceiling of the L5 compartment that carries a heavy-duty winch. A pull-down rear stairway provides access to the four coffin compartments on top of the rig.

Bill Proft, business unit director of rescue products for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says Pierce recently built three specialty rescues for the San Jose (CA) Fire Department: a multidiscipline rescue, a hazardous materials unit, and an urban search and rescue (USAR) truck. “All three of the rigs are on Velocity chassis with TAK-4 T-3 independent rear steering,” Proft says. “The USAR truck has a large Iowa Mold Tooling crane on the rear, and the rest of the truck is loaded with USAR, collapse, and trench rescue equipment. The multidiscipline heavy rescue has a compressor to power air tools and a utility tray that slides out of a compartment on which to cut timbers. The hazmat truck’s cab is a three-door model that holds a small operations center, which opens into the body where there is a slide-out section that holds the lab area.”

Proft says Pierce also built two specialty rescues for the Sacramento (CA) Fire Department—a USAR and a hazmat truck—on Velocity chassis and four-door extended cabs. “The Sacramento USAR has a combination door on the side where the lower door drops down to access equipment, while the upper door is a roll-up; plywood storage is accessed from the back of the vehicle,” he notes. “The hazmat truck has a walk-in area at the front of the body that holds a small laboratory with a fume hood, while the rest of the body is walk-around.”

Pierce built a USAR truck with a number of unique systems on it for the Chula Vista (CA) Fire Department, Proft says. “It’s on an Arrow XT chassis with a four-door cab and TAK-4 T-3 independent steering,” he adds, “with full breathing air capability, an air compressor in the compartment over the rear wheels, an industrial RGC hydraulic power supply, and a tool air compressor onboard.”

 Pierce Manufacturing Inc. built three specialty rescue vehicles for the San Jose (CA) Fire Department, including this USAR truck that has a large Iowa Mold Tooling crane at the rear. (Photo 2 courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing Inc.)

Justin Howell, senior sales territory manager for Sutphen Corp., says Sutphen recently built two heavy rescues for the Colbaugh Township (PA) Fire Department. “The specialty rescue has a 180-inch wheelbase and 620 cubic feet of compartment space, while the heavy rescue is on a 226-inch wheelbase with 700 cubic feet of compartment space, a walk-up rear staircase, a ground ladder complement, and anchor points on the sides of the body for rope rescue work,” Howell says.

For the Greensboro (NC) Fire Department, Sutphen built an air/light unit, Howell says, with a 30-kilowatt (kW) generator, a 7,000-pounds-per-square-inch (psi) Bauer air compressor with 14 air bottles, two double cascade fill stations at the rear covered by a roll-up door, and a refrigerator and coolers in a slide-out compartment. The rig can store 55 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottles in one compartment.

Sutphen built a collapse, trench rescue, and extrication truck for the Roswell (GA) Fire Department, Howell says, with a walk-in area accessed from the cab, a transverse compartment over the rear wheels, and slide-out compartments behind the rear wheels. “The truck has a 22-foot aluminum body, a light tower, a 15-kW generator, air bag storage, and an air cascade system,” he says.

 Sutphen Corp. built this collapse, trench rescue, and extrication specialty rescue truck for the Roswell (GA) Fire Department. (Photo 3 courtesy of Sutphen Corp.)

Mike Mildner, rescue specialist and product manager for E-ONE, notes that E-ONE recently built a walk-around multidiscipline heavy rescue for the Aurora (CO) Fire Department. “The truck is set up to handle confined space, high-angle, and low-angle rope rescue; collapse and trench rescue; and avalanche,” Mildner observes. “It carries a lot of wood, trench panels, plywood with reinforced backs, 4×4s, 2×12s, and 2×10-inch lumber and has rope anchors at the bottom of the compartments over the rear wheels.”

For the Anne Arundel County (MD) Fire Department, E-ONE built a special operations rescue on a Cyclone II X chassis and long cab that has two receivers under the body and upper rope anchor points that allow a Paratech monopole to be rigged on either side. “It’s essentially a tripod boom that can be lowered over a cliff, embankment, or manhole,” Mildner notes. “The truck also carries a lot of Paratech struts, cribbing and wood, and rope rescue equipment.”

E-ONE also built a walk-around heavy rescue for the Burtonsville (MD) Fire Department that has a large crew area in the front of the body where firefighters can dress in hazmat hot suits or water rescue dry suits, Mildner says. He notes the truck carries air bags for heavy lifting tasks, swift water rescue equipment, rope rescue equipment, and gear to handle collapse and trench rescue. An unusual all-discipline rig that E-ONE built, Mildner adds, was for the Lexington (KY) Fire Department, which was outfitted with a special tripod for horse rescue. “Lexington is in horse country, and when a horse goes down on the ground and can’t get up, it needs assistance,” he says. “So, this rescue has a tripod that can be attached to a wrapping around the horse on the ground to stand the horse back up and prevent it from expiring.”

 The Aurora (CO) Fire Department had E-ONE build a walk-around multidiscipline heavy rescue that can handle confined space, high- and low-angle rope, collapse, trench, and avalanche rescue. (Photo 4 courtesy of E-ONE.)

Dwayne Woodard, regional sales manager for SVI Trucks, says SVI built a multidiscipline rescue for the Hickory (NC) Fire Department that has rope anchors, tow eyes, and winch receivers as rope rescue tie-off points and carries Paratech struts, plywood and Finform for trench rescue, air bags for collapse, and water rescue equipment. For the New Rochelle (NY) Fire Department, SVI built a specialty rescue dedicated to collapse and trench rescue, Woodard says, and for the Gwinnett County (GA) Fire and Emergency Services, it built an air/light truck with a large air compressor, fill station, and ramp off the rear for a 300-foot air reel that can be used for confined space.

 SVI Trucks built a multidiscipline rescue for the Hickory (NC) Fire Department that has rope anchors, tow eyes, and winch receivers as rope rescue tie-off points and carries Paratech Gold struts, plywood and Finform for trench rescue, air bags for collapse, and water rescue equipment. (Photo 5 courtesy of SVI Trucks.)

Wes Schamle, sales manager for Unruh Fire, says Unruh built a water rescue truck on a Ford F-650 chassis and four-door cab for the Overland Park (KS) Fire Department that carries a fully inflated boat on top that’s deployed from the rear. The rescue has a 15-foot-long, 84-inch-tall body with two transverse compartments, and it’s set up for water, ice, rope, and confined space rescues.

 Unruh Fire built a water rescue truck for the Overland Park (KS) Fire Department on a Ford F-650 chassis that carries a fully inflated boat on top and two Evinrude RescuePro pump jet outboard motors on swing-out mounts at the back. (Photo 6 courtesy of Unruh Fire.)

Overland Park Battalion Chief Andrew Grove says the department’s 13-foot Wing 4.2 rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) is seven feet off the ground on top of a lowered roof, which has sidewalls to allow the boat to be covered by a tarp. “We put a 1,500-pound winch at the front of the bulkhead so we can winch the boat up if it has equipment or water in it,” Grove points out. “We had an issue of where to carry the outboard motors because we purchased two 30-horsepower Evinrude RescuePro pump jet four-stroke outboards, which can’t lay on their sides in a compartment for any extended period. Working with Unruh, we came up with swing-out motor mounts on the back of the truck, holding the outboards vertical like they would be on the boat’s transom.”

Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, notes that Summit recently built a walk-around hazardous materials heavy rescue for the Oconee County (SC) Fire Department on a Spartan chassis with an L-shaped command desk and cabinets in the crew cab area. The rig has a 20-foot aluminum body with custom trays and slides in all nine body compartments. Summit also built a 40-foot-long technical rescue trailer for the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue Team and a technical rescue USAR trailer with a portable fork lift on the back for the Cincinnati (OH) USAR Team, as well as a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive trailer for the Boone County (KY) Fire Department where the interior has a laboratory to processing samples at hazardous materials incidents.

 Summit Fire Apparatus built this technical rescue trailer for the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue Team. (Photo 7 courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)

Mark Brenneman, assistant sales manager for 4 Guys Fire Trucks, notes that 4 Guys built a walk-in heavy rescue last year for the Adams Area (PA) Fire District on a Spartan chassis and two-door cab with a compartment for an inflatable RIB and a compartment at the rear for an outboard motor on a hinged mount that tilts down. “The rescue had trench panels standing on edge in a transverse compartment behind the cab,” Brenneman says, “an onboard air compressor and cascade system, a compartment for lumber and cribbing, and ladders that slide into a compartment from the rear.”

 4 Guys Fire Trucks built a walk-in heavy rescue for the Adams Area (PA) Fire District that has a compartment for an RIB and a compartment at the rear for an outboard motor on a hinged mount that tilts down. (Photo 8 courtesy of 4 Guys Fire Trucks.)

Calvin Kanowitz, marketing and dealer development manager for Marion Body Works Inc., points out that often fire departments have to combine certain rescue disciplines to get the rescue truck that fits them best. “We are doing more walk-ins than walk-arounds because departments are seeing the need for mobile work centers as well as having an area where crews can suit up for specialty rescues,” Kanowitz says. “For the Nashville (TN) Fire Department, we built a rear walk-in specialty rescue where they use the interior of the body to refill SCBA bottles. They wanted a clean refill center and a separate disposal area for contaminated bottles, so we designed a six-bottle refill station, storage for 24 bottles, and a separate area for contaminated bottles.”

Chad Newsome, national sales manager for Rescue 1, believes a trend toward multidiscipline rescue trucks is returning. “Fire departments are asking to have every nook and cranny on their rescues used and accounted for,” Newsome points out, “and we continue to see separation of compartments into various rescue disciplines. Likewise, there’s a continuing trend of rear walk-in rescues being very popular, and we don’t see that going away anytime soon.”


ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and 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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