The skinny: Specialized firefighting vehicles

Some emergency scenarios require specialized vehicles to move patients or attack fire; here's a look at what's on the market and how to make the best choice

Like the military, the fire service must find innovative ways to provide services safely, effectively and efficiently; meet the challenges of a mission that is constantly evolving; deploy more quickly and in remote locations; and save money while doing all the above.

For example, consider fire trucks. The size and cost for a Type I engine continues to grow — as it does for all apparatus — while the situations that departments face are increasingly not those best met with a large piece of apparatus.

Some examples include providing fire protection, EMS or technical rescue at large public gatherings like concerts and sporting events; large municipal, state and federal parks; motorsports events, particularly off-road venues; and the growing numbers of wildland and interface fires.

In recent years the number of original equipment manufacturers now building emergency response vehicles for these types of off-road activity has greatly increased. Fire and EMS departments can choose from both 4x4 and 6x6 models using the following off-road utility vehicle chassis:

ASAP (Alternative Support Apparatus) uses the Polaris Ranger 6×6 chassis for its off-road vehicle line up. This chassis features an 800cc electronic fuel injected 40-horsepower engine with on-demand six-wheel drive, independent suspension and travels at speeds up to 40 mph. ASAP lengthens and modifies the Ranger to accommodate a larger rear equipment mounting area and more weight-carrying capacity.

ASAP currently manufactures three main product lines, each of which has been tested by the independent testing facility the Transportation Research Center. Under fully loaded conditions, the ASAP vehicles tested to 30-degree slope, climbed their maximum slope of 31 degrees, and passed all brake testing.

The MedStat off-road ambulance features a fully enclosed, all-aluminum patient compartment that secures a full-size cot and seating for two attendants and a driver. All models have a list of options that gives the customer the flexibility to order the MedStat unit that best fits their needs.

ASAP's Wildfire off-road fire fighting/rescue vehicle features a 160-gallon capacity low-profile poly water tank with an integrated 16-gallon foam concentrate cell. Features include a Honda 13-horsepower engine driving a Darley Davey pump and foam system, with electric start, booster hose reel with hose and nozzle and 3- to 7-foot lengths of hard-suction hose for refilling from draft.

The WildFire Scout is a bolt-on firefighting unit that mounts directly to the Polaris Ranger 6x6 replacing the Ranger's stock bed creating a lower center of gravity and improving vehicle operating safety in rugged locations.

The select series flatbed features modification kits that convert it into various vehicles including, the Trail Rescue (EMS), the Transporter (people hauler), the Roughneck (tool and equipment hauler) and the Heavy Hauler (dump truck) version.

Wilderness Trek
Emergency Off-Road's product line includes the F.A.S.T. Attack Fire Trek and EMS Responder series of off-road vehicles.

The Trek is a quick-strike, minimal-crew, go-anywhere vehicle. Equipped with a specially designed CAFS system, the it is capable of doing the work of larger and more cumbersome brush trucks in places the average brush truck simply can't get to.

It comes equipped with a standard 40 gallon water tank, four 90-cubic-foot SCBA air tanks, and 5 gallons of Class A foam. The Trek can dispense 80 gallons of water before needing to refill the air tanks, which provide the fluid propulsion in lieu of a pump.

The EMS Responder features the Polaris Ranger 800XP crew chassis (other chassis also can be used) and is a quick-response vehicle capable of patient care and transportation in remote, rugged areas. The rear seat can be replaced with a custom bed capable of handling a rescue basket or full stretcher. The unit also has medical crew attendant seats, custom storage compartments, full roll bars, a seven-panel canvas full cab enclosure, patient privacy panels, and scene and emergency lighting. 

The Mini Emergency Response Vehicle (MERV) line of off-road response vehicles provides big apparatus capability in a small package. The fire or EMS units can be built using a 4x4 or 6x6 chassis.

One configuration is capable of transporting three rescuers and the patient on a Stryker rugged-terrain cot, plus all the ALS medical gear needed to bring paramedic level EMS to the patient.

With the FireCot skid package you can convert your EMS MERV to a brush MERV in minutes. The FireCot skids lock into the same mount as the cot and come standard with a 5.5-horsepower two-stage pump, a 70-gallon water tank, a 3-gallon foam cells, a proportioning foam educator, a 100-foot hose reel and hose, and a 10/23 dual nozzle.

Nothing can sideline a rescue effort like a flat tire. Tire Ball Company's Tireballs is a tire-protection system uses multiple air cells so that several cells can be punctured without total loss of air pressure. As hazards are encountered, cells are individually deflated, while remaining cells expand to fill the void. As a result, off road rescuers safely continue emergency operations without stopping to repair a flat.

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