WARS Shows Off Its Heavy Rescue

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WARS chief Kostas Alibertis, Leanne Knox and deputy chief Patrick Watson
WARS chief Kostas Alibertis, Leanne Knox and deputy chief Patrick Watson

Squad 505, Western Albemarle Rescue Squad’s new heavy rescue truck, entered service in July after three years of effort to realize its existence. The squad held an open house Oct. 8 to show it off to the public and promote interest in the emergency service.

WARS Chief Kostas Alibertis reported that 20 people had come by. The volunteers had brought their kids, too, to show that volunteering is family-friendly. “Our best recruitment is through the EMT classes, or word-of-mouth from members. We get good PR from them.”

“Our primary mission is emergency transport, but now we’re doing other technical rescues, too,” said Patrick Watson. “Those are different from an EMS call.”

The squad truck, as it’s called by the volunteers, replaces a 1993 GMC that had done its best and was easier to get into the bay. The new truck, 33-feet long and weighing 20 tons, barely clears the 9-foot, 8-inch bay door. Top clearance is two inches. It has an hydraulic four-wheel drive system that allows the truck to ‘kneel’ through the doorway as it backs into the bay.

“It’s a large moving tool box,” said Watson. “It has a 20-year life expectancy. What are the needs of Crozet going to be in 2034?

It has a superior 30-kilowatt generator and it carries 60 gallons of diesel fuel to keep it going a long time. “No other truck in the county can light up anything like this truck can.” All the lights are LEDs, including the headlights. In all, it can produce 900,000 lumens of light. (A light bulb is a couple of hundred lumens.)

“The squad truck is most often used for car accidents, especially if it appears a passenger can’t get out or a car is over a bank. It has lots of lighting to be a safety feature. Putting it at a scene as a barrier defends workers at the wreck site.”

WARS designed the truck’s configuration. It took two years to plan it and another to build it. The Seagrave chassis was built in Clintonville, Wisconsin. The box it carries in the rear was made by SVI Truck in Fort Collins, Colorado. Watson and Alibertis flew to both places twice to consult on construction. “It’s the difference between your architect and your builder,” said Watson.

The truck cost $897,000 in the County’s Capital Improvements Program, plus some extra expenses that bring the cost to $1M. It’s the second most expensive piece of fire/rescue equipment after a ladder truck because it is so specialized. Replacement value is pegged at $1.2M. The powerful truck can actually gain speed climbing Afton Mountain, thanks to its 500 horsepower engine. It’s also geared to handle the mountain.

The two-seat heavy rescue has lots of gear storage, all carefully thought out, Three power lines come off it and it has a foam-maker that makes 1,200 gallons when water is added to concentrate. That’s meant to handle car engine fires when WARS arrives at a scene ahead of the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department.

“It’s great for handling firefighting situations,” said Alibertis. “We can fill air canisters at long-term scenes. Up to 30.”

Watson revealed the storage of the guard rail saw and a giant new jaws-of-life that will cut through anything. Anything.

Five cameras come on the truck that show the driver the view off all sides. “The features that we thought were extras we might not need turned out to be things we needed to use first. I admit I was wrong about whether we needed them,” Watson said.

The truck carries a Stokes basket, a shallow tray for a person that was designed by the Coast Guard. “And now we carry a 20-foot folding ladder. Never before.”

About 10 WARS members are qualified to drive it. “This is the best riding, best driving truck this size anybody’s ever been in,” said Watson. “It has automatic chains that drop down for snow!” He said it’s been called out about twice a week since it arrived.

“We’re currently designing one more vehicle to handle water rescue,” said Alibertis. “Something that can pull a trailer with a Gator and kayaks on it. It should be in service in six months.”

He said a Standards of Coverage report will come out in August that will identify the best location for a new squad building. It will probably be near where the squad is based now because that location is within one mile of the greatest population density. Alibertis said it will likely shift south of the tracks. He predicted a $5M price tag for the new building.

WARS has 80 active members and is answering 1,500 calls a year, about four a day. Call volume is up 17 percent in the last year. There were 1,200 calls in 2014.

Western Albemarle Rescue Squad 505 Heavy Rescue (Photo courtesy WARS)
Western Albemarle Rescue Squad 505 Heavy Rescue (Photo courtesy WARS)

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