Marine Unit

The Rocky Point Fire Department’s marine unit, built on a 1985 AM General with body by Firematic. (Photos by author.)
The Rocky Point Fire Department’s marine unit, built on a 1985 AM General with body by Firematic. (Photos by author.)

One fire department located on the north shore of Long Island found another unique use. The Rocky Point Fire Department, in Suffolk County, New York, whose fire district abuts the water of Long Island Sound, needed a larger vehicle to support its dive team and to pull a larger Zodiac boat.

According to past commissioner Steve Tumulty, several years ago the department started its dive team with a pickup truck and a trailer to transport a 14-foot inflatable boat. However, as the team grew, the department purchased a larger 23-foot Zodiac response boat. It needed a larger trailer and truck to transport the boat and the ever-growing cache of equipment the dive team needed to operate.

Evaluating Existing Vehicles

Department personnel traveled around Long Island and looked at other fire departments that were operating GI 6 × 6s for storm response vehicles. They gained some insight on what to do and what not to do when they built their vehicle.

“Our fire district is fortunate to have several GI 6 × 6 vehicles in stock at our district yard,” Tumulty says. “It might sound unusual, but preplanning and being proactive always seem to work for us. We already had several GI 6 × 6 brush trucks and a storm response vehicle we had outfitted after Superstorm Sandy. The other extra vehicles were stored and could be converted in a short period of time for backup vehicles to replace our existing trucks if need be.”

The spare the department had was a 1985 Am General 2½-ton vehicle that would suit its needs. “We began the idea and planning for the vehicle in 2005,” Tumulty says. “The vehicle was designed by myself and an ex captain from the department. We took the spare vehicle that we had in stock and sent it to a local vendor, Firematic Supply in Shirley, that is only several miles south of our district.” Firematic is the company that builds the Brush Rapid Attack Truck (B.R.A.T.®) line of brush and rescue vehicles that have been written about in the past. Firematic was instrumental in converting the vehicle for the department’s needs.

The rear body, shelving, and compartments were constructed of aluminum that was strong and at the same time lowered the weight of the vehicle. This would prove to be instrumental when operating on the beach and not getting stuck in the sand. The department had installed special steps in the rear of the truck so members could easily get on and off the vehicle during a response. It was also advantageous when the vehicle was used as an additional storm response vehicle. County residents, should they have to be evacuated, would also be able to climb in and out of the vehicle easily. Firematic also installed custom rims and single wheels that would enable the department to use the truck on the beach and launch it in the water, as salt water was a problem in the past with launching the boat.

“We wanted the vehicle for a fast response for water rescues and to transport our dive team and equipment to the beachfront in our district and the fire departments that are adjacent to our district for mutual aid,” Tumulty adds.

The rear of the vehicle with steps and telescopic floodlights and equipment stored.

Vehicle Specs

The vehicle has air-assist steering and a manual transmission. “In the future, should the department upgrade, we would probably have an automatic transmission and power steering installed for ease of operation,” Tumulty says. “Also, we would probably upgrade to a heavier five-ton truck.”

Firematic only took five weeks to construct the body. It was then sent to a local collision shop in town that painted the whole vehicle and then had it lettered.

The truck has an 8,000-pound portable winch that can be used in the front and rear of the vehicle and a 2,500-watt portable generator with four lights that can be used on and off the truck to light up a scene.

It carries eight full dive setups and eight spare bottles, three voice diver-to-surface communication masks, five dry suits, eight wetsuits, six Mustang suits, two ice rescue suits, two rescue swimmer suits, a portable Honda floating fire pump with hose, and miscellaneous tools. Also carried onboard are backboards and a full complement of first-aid equipment.

“The truck has been really working out well for us,” Tumulty says. “We recently had a small plane down off the shore in Long Island Sound. We responded and rescued two victims from the crash in less than 20 minutes from the time we received the call. Both victims survived.”

The marine unit also has been used in several past snowstorms and used as a makeshift ambulance. It was used to get victims who were stuck in their homes in the northern end of the district; they were then transferred to a regular ambulance for transport to a local hospital.

Conversion Vs. Custom

The Rocky Point Fire Department really thought out of the box and was proactive in designing this unique vehicle for its fire district’s needs. While some departments might not be able to afford to stock extra army surplus vehicles, Rocky Point was proactive in its thinking. It already had a brush truck and a storm response vehicle in use, and adding this vehicle to its arsenal for a multipurpose response vehicle was an added plus - even though it was primarily designed as a marine rescue unit.

There are several companies selling converted GI 6 × 6 chassis. You might be able to purchase one and have a local vendor design a body for your use if you are in the market for a certain type of vehicle. You might save a great deal of money doing this conversion instead of ordering a custom vehicle.

Rocky Point Fire Department

  • Station 1 is Rocky Point Co. #1, located on the west side of the district.
  • Station 2 is North Shore Beach Co. #2, located in the central part of the district.
  • Station 3 is Shoreham Co. #3, located on the east side of the district.

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October 2017
Volume 12, Issue 10