Buram rescue squad seeks township's aid

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    BYRAM -- The local emergency medical service has tried everything to repair the wounds, but this rescue effort has been like no other before. Even, the most seasoned and determined members of the Lakeland Emergency Squad are willing to concede that one of its most reliable rescue trucks is on its last legs and is likely to be beyond repair. Some members of the Lakeland Emergency Squad gave Byram residents the dour news at a township council meeting this week. The council expressed its condolences, but said it needed time to think before committing from $150,000-$175,000 toward the purchase of a new truck. The rescue squad can't imagine working any longer without one. "Our vehicle is in need of repair," said John Cubberly, chief of the Lakeland Emergency Squad. "It's coming to the end of its life. I'm not going to risk the lives of our members on the road." The 1979 International/Saulsbury rescue vehicle was purchased new entirely through donations and has amassed more than 250,000 miles since. Upkeep of the truck has placed a great strain on the operating budget of the all-volunteer agency. In the past eight years when the squad began researching a replacement vehicle, every grant application that would have gone toward the purchase of a new rescue truck has been denied. "We're not looking for anything fancy," said emergency squad member Scott Danielson. "We've tried every avenue. This is a last-ditch effort as far as financing goes." The rescue vehicle, which looks like a truck used for delivering soda instead of saving lives with its side roll-up doors, is primarily used to transport personnel and store emergency equipment. Housed in the rescue squad garage along Route 206 near Cranberry Lake, the vehicle is capable of storing everything from containment instruments; hand, air, hydraulic and power tools; and items for debris clearing and traffic control. "At the time that it was purchased, it was a modern, accessible, highly skilled vehicle," said Cubberly. "Right now, it is older, highly used, and not very functional for what we need at this time. A newer vehicle would give us the chance to carry more rehab equipment, more supplies and be a safer, easier driving vehicle for our members." According to squad officials, in the past 25 years, the truck has been used on rope and high-angle missions to save lost hikers in the wilderness, on mountains and in caves. It's also been used to contain hazardous materials; provide support services during fires; and respond to car, bus, truck, plane and train emergencies. "You couldn't get a truck of that caliber for the price we paid," said Byram Mayor Eskil "Skip" Danielson, who served on the emergency squad when the truck was purchased for about $110,000. But while the service has been laudable, the years have not been kind on the rescue truck. White duct tape is stretched along the windshield to prevent rain from seeping inside the cabin. The body is spotted with rust and the chassis mounts are deteriorating. Fluid leaks. Power is lacking and old, obsolete generators and outdated electrical systems can no longer hide the vehicle's age "We're not looking for a parade piece; that's not our style," said Bob Kern, a squad member since 1973. "We have dedicated, trained members who -- quite frankly -- have been overlooked; people who are doing their best, but not being recognized." Councilman Earl Riley wondered whether local fire department vehicles could be used toward the same purposes without incurring any additional expenses on Byram residents. "I don't want to spend the taxpayers' money to duplicate a red truck with a green truck," said Riley. Danielson said that there are many instances when both the fire department and emergency squad vehicles are used simultaneously. He cited a house fire in Stanhope on Saturday as an unfortunate example. Councilwoman Donna Griff said both the fire department and emergency squad should be discussing equipment issues together in an effort to form the most cost-effective solutions. "We're all concerned for the safety of our residents," she said. "If I call 911, I want whomever is appropriate. You're all the same to me. Trucks should be shared and working together." The emergency squad is also asking Andover Township to carry the cost of a new truck and trailer estimated at $150,000 and Andover Borough to provide funds for a new first-response vehicle valued at $30,000. "We don't want all the bells and whistles," said Cubberly. "We want what we need to do the job of servicing the people of Byram."