Seminole County, FL, Acquires Two High-Water/Flood Rescue Vehicles

Jan. 9, 2024
Seminole County Fire Department used ARPA funding to bolster their hurricane responses by replacing their 55-year-old flood-rescue trucks.

The Seminole County Fire Department recently acquired two high-water/flood and multi-use rescue vehicles. The rigs, built by Acela on the Monterra GL chassis, were purchased for $502,000 with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The idea of replacing their two high-water rescue vehicles from 1968 was put on the board the night before Hurricane Ian devastated Florida in 2022, when Chief Matt Kinley brought the possibility to light to the acting county manager. From there, Ben DeCuir, the Deputy Chief of Operations at SCFD started to toy with the realistic possibility. In November, the discussion for the new vehicles started.

By the end of the month, they had partnered with Acela, a company that strips down military-grade vehicles and redesigns them into speciliazed flood and high-water rescue vehicles. The designs on the two new vehicles blow the old ones out of the water.

As opposed to only carrying 12 people and only being able to drive through 32 inches of water with limited access points, the two new rigs rescuers to transport 28 people. The Accela rigs also water fording depth of 50 inches and they are equippped with a side entrance along with a hydraulic lift gate on the back that can carry up to 3,000 pounds.

The trucks were made for more than just hurricane season. There is a removable skid that can be used and it is equipped with a 650-gallon water tank, a pump and hoselines to combat brush fires.

“They are a good partner just after the fact,” said Kinley. “I really think that this style of truck has the potential as a game changer in a lot of areas. We're just super excited to have it. This helps us with being the half-rural county that we are. We have a lot of wildland urban interfaces within the county. So, this gives us some more assets that we will be able to fight brush fires with.”

As with any new apparatus or operation, it comes with challenges. This situation is no exception.

“The biggest challenge is just training everybody up. It's not just throwing some random firefighter on there and they go all down the street."

"You need to be very proficient in its operation and where not to put it so that you're keeping yourself and the trucks safe,” said Kinley. “The training part of it and ensuring that we've got the right number of drivers that are proficiently trained on the truck.”

After the Board of County Commissioners approved the allocation of a half-million dollars of ARPA funding in April 2023, the purchase order was placed, and production began. In August, the Acelas arrived at SCFD and were put into a limited-service role until training sufficed. They are being housed at the SCFD’s Training Center. 

As of now, the rescue vehicles are in use and a going to be a major factor in response to brush fires, hurricanes and other emergencies.

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