Clearwater and District Highway Rescue Society’s new truck will go farther, faster and carrying more weight – and it was bought without any extra money from local taxpayers.
The new truck, a Ford 550 4×4, should have better fuel economy and be able to go on more backroads than the society’s old vehicle, a GMC purchased in 1997.
The old truck is being transferred to the highway rescue society’s unit in Blue River, while the old truck there is being decommissioned.
The new vehicle was fitted out by Hub Fire Engines in Abbotsford, said society spokesperson Garry Ruston.
Total cost was $153,000. The money was raised through such things as payments for tasks (the Provincial Emergency Program pays $500 plus mileage for an extrication, less for less complicated incidents), fundraising and donations from local and regional highway trucking companies.
Thompson-Nicola Regional District and District of Clearwater also kicked in $40,000 in federal gas funding.
“People are very good about supporting us, because you never know when you might find yourself upside down in a ditch,” Ruston said.
Features of the new truck include a slide-out tray the full width of truck that can be pulled 3/4 of the way out on either side of the vehicle. It can hold up to 1,600 pounds and is loaded down with air-packs, stretchers, ladders and other rescue gear.
“I didn’t realize how much stuff we had in the old truck until we started moving it into the new one,” Ruston observed.
More slide-out trays along the sides hold more gear, with the top ones dropping down the enable easier access.
A generator in a locker at the rear provides power for exterior lighting. Six plug-ins in the cab provide clean electricity for computers and so on.
They haven’t had much need for four-wheel-drive because the old truck was so heavy it had plenty of traction, said Ruston.
However, they are getting more callouts to accidents on logging roads and having a 4×4 will mean they can get to places they otherwise couldn’t.
The new vehicle also means they will be able to take everything with them they need. A lot of cribbing and extra supports are needed to lift a vehicle on its side.
Area covered by Clearwater and District Highway Rescue coincides with the Clearwater RCMP detachment boundaries, which go from Thunder River in the north, to the top of Highway 24 at Eagle Island in the west, to Thuya Creek Resort south of Little Fort in the south.
The society has mutual aid agreements in place with highway rescue units in Barriere, 100 Mile House and Valemount. Given certain circumstances, the highway rescue vehicle could work anywhere in the province.
Having a unit and vehicle stationed in Blue River means the unit based out of the Blackpool firehall makes fewer wasted calls to the north.
Finding and keeping volunteers is always a problem with the society, Ruston said. Responding to an accident scene is valuable and necessary work, but it isn’t for everybody. The unit chief said he hopes that the new rescue vehicle will help attract new volunteers with the right approach for the task.
Below: Members of the Clearwater and District Highway Rescue Society board check out a rack of air tanks on a pull-out tray – just one of many features on the society’s new rescue truck. Pictured are (l-r) Mike Savage, Michelle Leins, Carol Solberg, Sydney Poole, Elaine Thiessen, Marnie Burnell, Garry Ruston and Sharon Ruston. Missing from the photo is Debbie Mattenley.