Union Bridge Fire Company acquires vehicle to handle searches, salvage Volunteers train for rescue unit

The Tasmanian devil is roaming the countryside in northwest Carroll County.

As the mascot for the Union Bridge Fire Company's new rescue squad, he's the symbol for ripping things apart to save lives.


"That was the idea of the guy who sold us the unit," said 1st Rescue Lt. Steve Keeney of the fanged and furry cartoon figure painted on the sides of the company's new rescue squad vehicle and over the door in the fire hall. "We just adopted it as our mascot."

Union Bridge became the fourth fire company in Carroll to get a certified rescue unit Aug. 14. Sykesville, Mount Airy and Manchester have been serving the county's emergency needs for several years, Mr. Keeney said.


"We're like the ladder truck, a support unit at a fire scene. Our job is to get there and do search, salvage and extrications," said Lieutenant Keeney. "We are mainly there to tear things apart."

Like many other fire units in the county, Union Bridge had been using a vehicle with rescue equipment on board for less serious incidents.

In more serious situations, the company had to rely on support from other agencies with fully equipped rescue squads.

"We had a Chevy truck that we bought equipment for, as much as it could carry, but that truck is about 20 years old," said Mr. Keeney. "We also couldn't carry very many men.

"It was a fully acceptable extricating unit," he said. "But over the years we outgrew it."

Union Bridge's new acquisition is a 1993 Ford LS-9000 with a specialized rescue body, Fire Lt. Chris Harris said. It is equipped with battering rams; a 20,000-pound winch, which stabilizes vehicles that have run into ditches or over inclines; and the "jaws of life," a device that can tear apart an automobile to let rescuers reach a trapped person.

The vehicle also carries an on-board generator and a portable generator, tripod lights for searches and enough oxygen to fill 83 firefighters' air bottles. It seats nine rescue crew members including the driver.

"It meets the minimum standards each county sets from a list called the Heavy Duty Squad Specifications," Lieutenant Keeney said.


"That allows us to function as a unit in the county.

"We also have a first aid kit so we can be a first responder on accident scenes," he said. "We can work with the injured people until the ambulance arrives."

Since the vehicle was delivered, about 30 volunteer firefighters have been attending weekly sessions to prepare to work with the equipment on the unit.

Once the crew gets used to its new responsibilities, the sessions will be held monthly, Lieutenant Keeney said.

"These guys have to train 45 hours beyond the normal fire training," he said. "Fifteen of them are training to become Rescue Specialist 1, to be able to do confined-space and water )) rescues."

The new unit should last about 15 years before needing an overhaul to catch up with the latest technology, Lieutenant Keeney said.


The company will need at least that long to repay the more than $180,000 it borrowed from the county to purchase the live-saving unit.

"It's going to cost more than that because we still have some equipment to put on it," Lieutenant Harris said. "We took out a low-interest loan with the county and are in the process of paying it back."