Rescue No. 74

Los Altos Hills fire officials will have to wait until next year for the arrival of a new fire rescue vehicle, shown in the above illustration.

Even first responders are not immune to the supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID pandemic; a new fire rescue vehicle the Santa Clara County Fire Department expected to arrive this month for Los Altos Hills County Fire District use has been delayed until January.

Like consumer vehicles, the backlog for emergency response ones is nationwide, and it has affected other expected additions to the Santa Clara County Fire Department fleet, said David Snow, director of support services for the department.

“Everything from computer chips that control transmissions and drives for pumping and apparatus mobility all the way out to seat liners to you name it, there’s a delay,” Snow said.

The wait for Rescue No. 74 is an annoyance, Snow added, but it won’t hamper calls for service, thanks to the county’s strict replacement policy: Apparatuses are replaced every 12 years or 100,000 miles, and the new vehicle replaces one that is only nine years old.

“So, it’s nothing that we can’t withstand,” he said. “It’s just a nuisance delay at this point.”

The custom-built vehicle will be stationed at the El Monte fire station, 12355 El Monte Road, and it will serve both the town of Los Altos Hills as well as parts of Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and residents living within neighboring unincorporated parts of the county. Due to the area’s topography and narrow, winding roads, much of it is classified as a “no truck” response zone, and it’s not safe to operate traditional ladder trucks, which typically range in length from 40 and 50 feet; the new rescue is approximately 30 feet long.

With a $705,000 price tag, the vehicle cost approximately $150,000 more than the fire department’s contract with the fire district stipulates for a fire engine, so the district paid the difference, Snow said.

A rescue replacement committee comprising firefighters, engineers, paramedics and state-certified mechanics worked with manufacturer Smeal to design No. 74, taking into consideration new technological advancements and areas of improvement identified by studying older apparatuses, Snow said.

The vehicle, technically referred to as a “wet rescue,” is considered an all-hazards apparatus, he said. In addition to tanks for water and fire-suppressing foam, it features a 35-foot ladder, additional storage for hydraulic vehicle extrication equipment like the “Jaws of Life” and a large complement of hand tools, including those used for shoring and cribbing, which involves the temporary support of fallen structures.

“It’s a one-stop shop; it does it all,” said acting Fire Chief Brian Glass during a short presentation last month to the Los Altos Hills County Fire District.

The rescue likely won’t be operational until March because radios and other equipment must first be installed. And the manufacturer is required to meet certain standards to secure National Fire Protection Association.