Superior Fire Department unveils new rescue vehicle
A $30,000 grant from Cenovus helped purchase and outfit the UTV.
SUPERIOR — The Superior Fire Department unveiled its newest rescue vehicle to the press on Friday, March 3, a Polaris Ranger UTV that can be outfitted with tracks in winter and wheels in summer.
Firefighter David Rosa drove it over snow banks surrounding the headquarters fire station, cutting a trail while cameras rolled.
“Rough day at work sometimes,” said Superior Fire Chief Cam Vollbrecht as Rosa drove past, smiling.
A $30,000 grant from Cenovus Superior Refinery, along with city capital improvement dollars, helped to purchase and outfit the vehicle. The UTV will be used for rescuing people and answering medical calls in difficult to reach areas such as snowmobile and ski trails, on top of the ice, or along bike and hiking trails.
“It also has water on it so we can fight wildland fires with this vehicle as well,” Vollbrecht said, in areas like Wisconsin Point. “This vehicle will be able to get down into places where our trucks would normally not get to, provide us with water and transportation in and out.”
The fully kitted out vehicle, including a hydraulic trailer to tow it on, came to roughly $50,000, Vollbrecht said. It replaces two old rescue vehicles, a snowmobile and a smaller UTV. The new rescue vehicle has a top speed limit of 25 mph with tracks on, 60 mph with tires.
“But we don’t drive that fast. Our policy is as fast as we can do safely,” Vollbrecht said.
The Cenovus grant allowed the department to outfit it with the tracks and track system that give it year-round capabilities.
“The tracks will also produce a lighter footprint, so in the springtime when we’re having wet conditions it will allow us to traverse across our trails without leaving ruts and causing more damage,” Vollbrecht said. “In the summertime once it dries out, the tires will go back on so we can use it on hard surfaces up and down roads in the summer.”
The back of the Ranger is equipped with a specialized box that was custom built by a Wisconsin company. A Stokes basket or backboard can be affixed to the back of the vehicle and a patient can ride out strapped into that, if needed.
“It is nice to be able to get people inside the cab, put them on the back,” Rosa said.
The fire department has a public-private partnership with the refinery that dates back 10 years. In addition to industrial firefighter training and rescue training on site, refinery owners Calumet, Husky and now Cenovus have provided specialized equipment that can be used in the community.
“When we heard that the fire department was in need of this piece of equipment, we were obviously very intrigued and excited to partner with the fire department,” said Jeff Savage, Cenovus senior manager for health and safety.
It’s good for the refinery’s employees and contractors, who live here, but also for the community as a whole.
“So we’re super excited to be involved in this process,” Savage said.
The UTV, which was put into service in December, has already been tapped to reach a cross country skier who had injured their foot on the ski trails. The person was able to strap in and ride back in the enclosed cab of the vehicle, which has both heat and air conditioning.
“Which seems like a luxury, but if you do have heat-related emergencies, having access to a cool environment as fast as possible is really important,” Vollbrecht said. “So if we have an individual that had a heat-related emergency on the trail, pretty far away from a truck or an ambulance, we can get them in the cab of a UTV, actually start cooling them down.”