New fire engine ‘heavy duty’

Getting stuck in a trench or trapped underneath a concrete wall is not exactly an ideal situation, but at least if it happens in Burlingame, Millbrae or San Mateo those in danger know that “heavy duty” help is on the way.

The Central County Fire Department, which represents Burlingame and Hillsborough, was recently awarded a $350,000 grant for an urban search and rescue response truck, which is basically a fire engine without a pump and tank.

The vehicle makes the rescue team a “medium duty rescue” agency, the first in the county to be awarded that high of a status from the California Office of Emergency Services.

The department soon expects to acquire more gear and pack it into their new truck to become the first “heavy duty” rescue team on the Peninsula.

The truck will be Central County’s, but the San Mateo and Millbrae fire departments will have access to it. Three trained personnel apiece from San Mateo and Central County, respectively, will man the 32- to 34-foot-long truck on missions.

The truck replaces a 20-year-old vehicle the county was using to transport its makeshift rescue operation. That old truck could “barely make it up the hill” and could only transport two firefighters, said Central County Battalion Chief Drew Flinders, head of the rescue team operations.

The new truck will also allow the department to carry much more equipment, including a new 9,000-watt light tower that will greatly improve night rescue missions, Flinders said. The truck will also lug jackhammers, ropes, harnesses and special breathing equipment for tight spaces.

“The vehicle we have currently is way too small,” Battalion Chief Ed Barton said. “It’s underpowered and overloaded.”

In the event of an earthquake or other regional disaster, the team would be called on by the state to perform rescue missions.

“This could help save lives,” Central County Chief Don Dornell said. More commonly, the team will assist drivers who crash off roads, especially on local freeways, Flinders said. The new truck will be hitting local streets this summer or fall, Dornell said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Central County’s shiny new truck

» Cost: $350,000

» Occupants: Six (old truck could fit two)

» Truck length: 32-34 feet

» Truck height: 10 feet

» Central County personnel trained for rescue missions: 24 of 63 total

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