Rescue Truck Remounted
The Pageland Rescue Squad’s rescue truck was in need of repair, again. Over the last few years the truck known as 604 seemed to always be in need of repair and had increasing become undependable. This time it was an electrical fire on a panel that housed relays and electrical connections for the emergency lighting. Previous problems included carburetor as well as alternator and brake issues. Even when it was running well it was dangerous to drive because it was overloaded. It simply did not have the capacity to handle the weight of all the equipment it needed to carry. It was decided that the truck could not be repaired. The manufacture was no longer in business and there were no schematics showing how the damaged electrical panel was wired. Even if the electrical issues could be overcome the weight issue remained. It was too dangerous to operate. High Point Fire District had just purchased a service truck and agreed to transport the rescue equipment to emergencies while the rescue squad searched for another truck.
The glory days
When the Pageland Rescue Squad took delivery of 604 in 1986, it was one of the best rescue trucks in the region. It was built by Ashley Emergency Vehicles in West Jefferson North Carolina on a 2 wheel drive Ford F350 4 door cab chassis. It featured, an aluminum utility body, a 5kw generator, four 500 watt lights on telescoping poles, storage for a 24 foot extension ladder and two large storage boxes on the top of the truck known as coffin boxes. Most of these features are expected on a new rescue truck today but in 1986 they were considered innovative. 604 quickly developed a reputation as being one of the best equipped rescue trucks in our area.
Rescue squad members quickly realized that a new truck was out of the question. A new truck of like quality and capabilities would cost in excess of $150,000.00, well out of reach of an organization operating on an income of just $24,000.00 a year. After looking at used trucks in the area members decided to keep the existing utility body and replace the chassis themselves. After further research members decided that it would be better to purchase a new chassis vs. a used one. A 2011 GMC Sierra 3500 HD 4X4 extended cab chassis was chosen at a cost of $30,300.00. Financing was secured at First Palmetto Savings Bank in Pageland and the chassis was purchased from Griffin Motors in Monroe N.C.
The work begins
The new chassis arrived in early May. To save money rescue squad members did most of the work to remount the body themselves. The body was removed from the old chassis and transported to Stegall’s Paint and Body to be painted to match the new chassis. A lot of modifications had to be made to make a utility body from a 1986 Ford fit a 2011 GMC but rescue squad members were able to accomplish this task in just two evenings. A goal was set to have the truck ready for the annual Watermelon Festival which is held in July. Members worked day and night to meet this goal and on July 16th the new and improved 604 made its debut in the Pageland Watermelon Festival parade.
New and improved
Rescue squad members not only replaced the chassis but made many other improvements. The 5kw gasoline powered generator was replaced with a 15kw propane fueled generator. Four new 500 watt telescoping scene lights replaced the original scene lights. Two 100ft hydraulic hose reels supply the Jaws of Life tools. A new LED emergency lighting package enabled 604 to have more emergency and safety lighting but use much less power. All striping and lettering was done using reflective vinyl. 604 turned out better than anticipated with many people expressing disbelief that it is the same truck. The final cost of the chassis and all modifications was less than $50,000.00.