Mountain View Voice

News - September 3, 2010

New fire engine a 'rolling toolbox'

Fire Department updates fleet with more efficient engines

by Nick Veronin

A new rescue vehicle, equipped with the "Jaws of Life" and special lighting equipment, will improve the efficiency of the Mountain View Fire Department's fleet, officials said.

The truck, which resembles a typical fire engine, has been dubbed Rescue 1, according to Jaime Garret, a spokeswoman with the fire department.

"A lot of times it's referred to as the 'rolling toolbox,'" Garret said, as the vehicle contains many large mechanical tools such as the "Jaws of Life" for cutting through metal and masonry, and a 4,500-watt telescoping lighting tower that helps emergency response teams illuminate the scene of nighttime incidents.

The new Rescue 1 comes as part of a vehicle overhaul, which Garret said will make the department's fleet the "most unified it's ever been."

It replaces a smaller Rescue 1, which has responded to more than 50,000 calls since it was put into service in 1984.

"It's our busiest unit in the city," said Zack Bond, a fire department captain. Rescue 1 responds to car accidents, serious medical calls and fires.

Bond said that the new truck is built on the same chassis and uses the same cabin as all the other engines in the fleet. However, instead of a large water tank, the rear portion of the vehicle makes space for carrying all of the department's various rescue tools. The uniformity across most department vehicles means firefighters will only have to be trained on how to drive one type of large vehicle. Before, firefighters had to be trained separately to drive engines, the rescue vehicle and the hazardous materials truck.

"It drives the same, operates the same, all the buttons and controls are in the exact same spots," Bond said.

He added that fire engines will have different features, which require separate training, but that, in general, once a firefighter is trained to drive an engine, that same firefighter will be able to drive Rescue 1.

It also makes things easier for the department's repair shop, he said, as mechanics don't have to worry about stocking different types of tires, oil filters and other replacement parts.

The larger vehicle not only makes for uniform operations, Bond said. It also provides more room for storing equipment. In the department's old rescue vehicle, tools were often stacked, one on top of the other, which meant that firefighters had to move one tool to get to another — wasting valuable time.

"Being able to access equipment expediently, that goes a long way with our response time," Bond said.

The new vehicle joins seven new engines, which were added to the fleet late last year. A new hazardous materials vehicle, which is also built on the same chassis with the same cabin, will be delivered to the department sometime in September. The engines are built by Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wash.

Garret said replacing all of the fleet at once enabled the fire department to secure the best deal on the engines. "It's kind of like shopping at Costco," she said. "You get a better rate if you buy more at the same time."

All of the new vehicles meet updated safety and environmental guidelines, Garret said. The trucks have rear view cameras to assist with backing up, which can be precarious with such a large vehicle; the vehicles have anti-lock brakes, anti-roll sensors and airbags; l.e.d. lights and lower-emission motors have been installed in an effort to go green.

"It's helping to maximize efficiency all around," Bond said.

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