$3,000 Buys Rescue Truck
With the acquisition of a rescue truck for about $3,000, we feel we have proved that a small fire department with determination and community involvement can provide services most often found in larger cities. Our rescue truck serves the city of Lancaster, Ky., with a population of 3,500, and the surrounding area.
Once it was decided that the department would try to establish the first rescue service in its area, all 20 members of the department were told what had to be done and that it would demand the efforts and talents of every member.
The Lancaster City Council was asked whether it would pay for the insurance and maintenance if the firemen raised enough money for a rescue truck. The council’s approval was unanimous, and we then planned a fund-raising campaign.
The local newspaper and radio station offered us space for articles and spot announcements on the air about the project. We found that publicity for this type of drive was easy to get and the friendliness engendered carried over into good relations with the press and radio for other fire department activities. In addition, every fireman talked with people, telling them how important it was to get a rescue truck.
Just 10 days after launching our fund drive, we had enough money to buy the truck and equipment for it.
Search for used truck
Since equipment room and working area were of utmost importance to us, we decided to look for a van-type truck. We soon found that a new vehicle would cost more than we could afford, so with the help of the department mechanic. Fireman Pete Domidion, we looked for a used van. In a town of 3,500, used vans are hard to find. But through a stroke of luck, we found a 1965 Chevrolet Step Van that had been in an accident. The owner had traded it in rather than wait for it to be repaired. We liked the amount of room inside the truck, which a garage had repaired and repainted, and Domidion examined it and recommended that we buy it and make needed repairs to place it in top shape. Domidion and some fire department helpers did all the mechanical work with parts we got at a discount.
The van had a new paint job, but it was white and we wanted a red truck. So we found a body man who offered to paint it for us as his donation to the truck fund if we would mask and prepare it for painting. After the truck was painted, we covered the floor with plywood to make it easier to roll the cot and to have a smooth base for red indoor-outdoor carpeting.
We waited until all the new equipment arrived and then we placed the new items and those transferred from two pumpers in the truck to find the best place to store each piece of equipment before we built cabinets. In this way, each item was stored in the most advantageous location. Captain Clifford Hurte, whose woodworking hobby proved very useful to us, did all the cabinet work. Then the inside was painted and the lights, siren and radio were installed.
We bought the following items for the rescue truck: a power saw, 350 feet of 3/4-inch rope, a fully equipped tool box, an ambulance cot with extra blankets and sheets, a body bag, a 5-ton hydraulic jack, a 15-foot chain with hooks, a 25-foot collapsible ladder, a crowbar, six metal wedges, a flameproof blanket, a self-contained breathing apparatus, a set of inflatable splints, one large and one small spine board, three shovels, a 10-ton hydraulic rescue kit, a 20-pound dry chemical extinguisher, a container of distilled water, a 2 1/2-gallon container of fresh water,a large first aid kit, a citizens band transceiver, three hand lights, a sledge hammer, six flares and a Garrard County, Ky., road map.
Equipment transferred from our pumpers to the rescue truck included: a 3.5-kw generator, three 500-watt floodlights with cables, a mouth-to-mask resuscitator, a fire ax, a stretcher, a basket stretcher, an inhalator, a portable oxygen tank with applicator, a walkie-talkie and bull horn.
A major point that we have not mentioned is preparing your men for rescue service. First aid is an everyday fire department activity, but using special equipment and rescuing people takes training and extra effort on the part of your firemen. Lancaster firemen have read books and pamphlets about methods and techniques for all kinds of rescue situations. In addition, we have used wrecked autos for training sessions.
Not an ambulance
Even though our rescue truck has an ambulance cot, the people were told that it was a rescue vehicle and would not be used as an ambulance except in an emergency. Whenever rescue services are needed, the department dispatches an officer and two firemen. The officer goes directly to the scene to evaluate the problem and determine the equipment needed.
An additional benefit of our do-it-yourself effort was the boost in morale as a result of a job well done. Each member is proud of our rescue unit.
This article is not meant to imply that all fire departments can become owners of rescue trucks overnight. It took many hours of hard work and many conversations with people, asking for assistance and telling why it was important to have a rescue truck. But with hard work, community assistance and department determination, it is possible.