Performing rescues in deep water, ice and rushing streams, as well as on towering rocks and from crushed vehicles, requires extensive training. It can also require special equipment, and the Colorado Springs Fire Department's heavy rescue crew soon will have a new tool to help.
In December, the city will take delivery of an $822,122 rescue truck from Pierce Manufacturing, of Appleton, Wisconsin, to replace the 1998 model that Deputy Chief Ted Collas says in an email "is beginning to require more frequent and costly repairs."
The truck was ordered in October 2013. Says Fire Capt. Steven Oswald, "From the time an agency places their specifications out for bid and then the contract is awarded, it takes on average a year for a manufacturer to build the apparatus." That's the same whether it's a heavy rescue truck or an engine, he notes.
The heavy rescue crew, based at Station 17, at 3750 Tutt Blvd., is designated as a Rapid Intervention Team, which responds to all working fires to perform rescues of firefighters or civilians.
The new truck was funded with $564,684 from the 2013 budget and $257,438 from this year's budget, Collas says. He adds that the Center for Public Safety Excellence recommended in March 2013, when bestowing accreditation on the department, that the city have a backup rescue unit instead of relying on a ladder truck when the rescue truck was down for repairs or maintenance.
Collas says the 1998 American LaFrance rescue truck will be placed on reserve status after the new vehicle arrives.
"These are huge investments for the whole community," Collas says. "They become a community asset. If they're not reliable and we can't get our people to the scene with the appropriate equipment, they're not doing the job."
Collas says the new truck has twin rear-drive axles to provide better traction in the snow and comes with an LED lighting package that "greatly increases visibility for safety of not only the firefighters but also the motoring public." The truck also has high horsepower so it can perform better on steep roads.
According to the Fire Department's 2013 Statistical Abstract, the number of rescue runs has gone up nearly 68 percent in a six-year span — to 1,168 in 2013 from 697 in 2007. So far this year, the crew has responded 999 times as of Friday, Oswald says.