By Bob Vaccaro
Published Tuesday, May 1, 2012
| From the May 2012 Issue of FireRescue
Looking back over my previous columns highlighting recent apparatus deliveries, I realize that I’ve forgotten some very unique organizations, namely some great volunteer rescue squads that provide fire and rescue response. I hope I can right that wrong with this month’s column.
One of those unique organizations is the Bethesda (Md.) Chevy Chase Rescue Squad (BCCRS). The BCCRS was founded back in 1947 as a first-aid corporation and has evolved into one of the nation’s most advanced and best-trained rescue squads. What’s unique about the operation of the squad is that it has paramedics, EMTs and firefighters all working together.
The BCCRS has a varied fleet consisting of seven ambulance/medic units, two heavy-rescue squads, one medic chase car, two air support units for refilling firefighter SCBA at fire scenes, and several command and utility vehicles. Recently, it replaced one of its heavy-rescue units.
“Our heavy squad vehicles are on a 20-year replacement cycle, 10 years front-line service and 10 in reserve—just like a lot of other communities,” says Captain Dave Peary. “This replacement cycle gives us some time to save money and design a new vehicle well in advance.”
The vehicle the BCCRS replaced had been built by Saulsbury. The BCCRS was happy with the vehicle, but because the company is no longer in business, they needed to find another manufacturer with similar building features. They eventually settled on PL Custom/Rescue 1 located in Manasquan, N.J.
“What was good about choosing Rescue 1 is that they are a smaller company, which is easier to deal with for our needs, and were only a few hours away by car,” Peary says. “The size of the company was important to us. We wanted to deal with the same people every time we visited the factory or every time we called and had an issue.”
Personnel from the BCCRS made roughly 15–20 trips to the PL Custom/Rescue 1 factory during the course of the build, sometimes twice weekly. “Some might call that overkill, but for us it was insurance that we got what we wanted,” Peary says. “Rescue 1 could not have been a better company to work with, from their owners, salespeople and engineers to the worker on the assembly line. They really gave us a great vehicle.”
BCCRS personnel weren’t the only ones traveling. PL Custom/Rescue 1 engineers also visited the BCCRS station to look at its existing squads and photos of its older rigs to observe how the compartments were laid out and what equipment they carried. “We have a lot of customization built into our older vehicles that we expected to carry onto this new squad,” Peary says. “Our squads respond to fires, vehicle extrications, technical rescue and average EMS runs, if needed, so space and special compartmentation were priorities when designing this new vehicle.”
Although the BCCRS was looking to duplicate many features of its older vehicles, it also had changes in mind. “We wanted a completely isolated cab with no walk-through,” Peary says. “The body is built as a walk-in back. We also went with a tandem axle because of the weight. It made the vehicle four feet longer than the older vehicle, which causes some concern with our drivers, but it gave us more space and better braking as well.”
Also installed: a six-tool hydraulic rescue tool set-up, with three tools and hydraulic lines on each side of the truck. “In the past we had two generators on the truck, but we did away with that and instead have one 30-kW Harrison hydraulic generator tied into the same reservoirs as the rescue tools,” Peary says. “We also have a light tower in a transverse compartment.” The cab is 10 inches shorter than the BCCRS’ last vehicle and features a 23,000-lb. independent front suspension for a smooth ride.
The BCCRS chose Spartan for the chassis with a Gladiator cab. “It gives us a great deal of room when responding, which is especially important since our members don’t ride in the rear,” Peary says. Before the chassis was delivered to Rescue 1, the BCCRS worked with Spartan to customize the HVAC system. “We specced out two air conditioning units and had to explain to Spartan about our special concerns,” Peary says. “They wanted to give us one large unit. But we explained to them that our concern was not just about cooling, it was also about not fogging up windows in the cab when responding not only in hot weather but also in the winter and in wet weather. After listening to our ideas and concerns, they delivered the cab with two A/C units.”
All of that attention to detail paid off. “Our six-member apparatus committee worked hard on the design, along with the Rescue 1 engineers,” Peary says. “The process was started about 2½ years ago. It took Rescue 1 a little under a year to construct the new squad, and we couldn’t be happier with the design, compartmentation and tool-mounting.”
A Final Word
The BCCRS planned for this purchase well in advance. They had a 20-year replacement program in place and knew when to begin the process.
Funding is a consideration with any apparatus purchase and must also be considered far in advance. The BCCRS doesn’t receive funds from any government entity for its annual operating expenses. Instead, its funds come from philanthropic donations from individuals, grants and bequests, Christmas tree sales, banquet hall rentals, special events, memorial donations and businesses. Since they operate this way, the membership makes sure they get the best bang for their buck, and they take good care of all their equipment to ensure it operates for a long time.
Whether your department takes this approach for funding or receives its funding from a tax-based program, everyone in this economy should be looking to save money and get what they want when designing a new piece of fire apparatus. The members of the BCCRS did just that.
About the BCCRS
The Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad (BCCRS) operates from two stations with 150 volunteer members. The squad staffs seven night crews that respond to incidents during the evenings, nights and weekends. It also employs daytime personnel who, with the assistance of daytime volunteers and two Montgomery County paramedics, staff the vehicles on weekdays. The squad responds to 10,000 alarms each year covering 94,000 households in the communities of Bethesda, Cabin John, Friendship Heights, Kensington, Potomac, North Bethesda, Rockville and Upper Northwest D.C.
BCCRS Heavy-Rescue Specs
- Spartan Gladiator LFD with 20" raised roof and eight-person severe-duty cab
- 232" wheelbase, 10'6" travel height, 38'2" travel length
- 550-hp Cummins ISX15 engine
- Six-speed Allison 4000 EVS automatic transmission
- Stainless-steel body
- Left- and right-side full-height/full-depth compartments with hinged doors
- Walk-in area with 76" headroom
- Harrison 30-kW hydraulic generator
- Knorr 17" front disc brakes
- One 24' two-section ladder, one 14' roof ladder, one 10' folding ladder
- RollTek Rollover Occupant Protection System, automatic traction control, electronic stability control
- Weldon V-MUX multiplexed electrical system with two Vista displays
- David Clark 3800 Series vehicle intercom system
- Back-up camera with visor monitor
- Three winches (one portable, one electric in front bumper, one hydraulic in rear)
Comment Now: Post Your Thoughts & Comments on This Story