By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — Everybody loves that new-car smell, including the volunteer firefighters at Niskayuna Fire District 2. Within the past two months, the district has taken possession of two brand-new emergency-response vehicles.
The new vehicles are the only ones like them in the area and, because of their design, are better for personnel and patients.
“This will allow us to respond more efficiently to calls,” said Tom Moran, fire commissioner and rescue captain. “We can get to patients more quickly, especially in inclement weather.”
The new vehicles, labeled 410 and 415, are essentially heavy duty pickup trucks custom-fitted with multi-compartment toppers. If a pickup truck and a tackle box mated, their offspring would resemble 410 and 415.
The trucks are Chevy 3500 4-by-4 pickups. Each truck can accommodate five rescue workers, and the cab is equipped with communication, light and siren controls.
Truck 410 is an Emergency Medical unit. The custom-designed and custom-built topper is equipped with side compartments that hold everything from medical bags to hydrolic-powered entry equipment. Each compartment is lighted and contains power strips and USB ports.
The back doors open to reveal two bed-length shelves that hold additional basic life support equipment and can slide out of the cap, allowing rescue workers to make use of and access more than 6 feet of additional storage.
Truck 415 is called the Technical Support Unit and serves as the district’s multipurpose vehicle. It has the same cab as 410 and is able to tow the fire district’s rescue air boat. The back cap features compartments and slide-outs that can store and haul whatever equipment is necessary for a specific call — from water rescue items to additional hose at a fire scene.
“These trucks are as close to perfect as we can get,” said Fire Capt. Kevin McKenna. “They do exactly what we need them to do.”
Moran led an apparatus and vehicles committee that identified the need for a lighter-weight, more-nimble rapid response unit. The district’s old vehicles had been in use since the 1980s and were heavy, under-powered and could be unwieldy in poor travel conditions.
The committee went forward with the new vehicles based on both current and anticipated needs and capabilities.
On that wish list was a vehicle that was lightweight, easy to drive and able to conform to the letter of state regulations but be flexible enough to adapt to future requirements and technology.
“We literally put tape on the floor and mapped out what we wanted,” said McKenna.
The committee conferred with its vendor, Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania-based ESI Equipment, and came up with an interior design for the fiberglass topper. The product, SpaceKap, is completely removable from the truck itself. If the truck needs to be replaced, the SpaceKap can be re-installed on a new vehicle.
Moran reported that the lower-weight cap also reduces wear and tear on the truck’s engine and drive train.
“In the long-term, it is really a cost savings,” said Moran.
Truck 410 had a chance to prove its mettle during the major snowstorm in March. The station responded to five medical calls with the new vehicle and responders reported that it performed very well, especially compared to the old response vehicle.
“It was night and day,” said McKenna.
In planning for the new vehicles, the committee also wanted them to be easy to drive. The lightweight SpaceKap and the pickup truck chassis are more familiar to volunteers and easier to drive said Moran.
The trucks were paid for from the district’s capital expenditure fund, which receives money from taxes paid by residents.
The total cost of truck 410 was $110,759 and truck 415 was $97,464, Moran said.
“We budgeted for this,” said Moran. “Through judicious expenditure of taxpayer funds, we were able to get the equipment without having to ask for more money from the taxpayers.”
Niskayuna Fire District 2 is a 48-member, all-volunteer department that responds to between 600 and 700 medical calls per year, providing basic life support and other rescue services. The district encompasses around seven square miles and includes three Niskayuna schools, Brookdale’s memory care facility and a number of apartments and group homes in addition to businesses, private residences and a portion of the Mohawk River.
The district is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.