RUMFORD – On March 6, 2008, former Rumford Selectman James Peterson lost control of a loaded logging truck he was driving on Dingle Hill Road about a mile east of Coos Canyon in Byron.

The truck rolled off a curve and about 50 feet into a ravine, sheering off trees before flipping on its side. It slid into maple and poplar trees, and one punched through the cab as snapped trees hung dangerously over the truck.

The roof was four feet under snow and Peterson was jammed into the seat, pinned with the tree between his legs.

The scene was just what the Rumford Fire Department’s Rescue 1 truck was designed for.

Loaded with $80,000 worth of rescue gear, the 2003 Ford F550 heavy-duty four-wheel-drive truck mounted on a Horton rescue body played a big role in extricating Peterson, Deputy Chief Ben Byam saud.

When Rumford bought the truck in 2005, Peterson was a selectman and agreed that the department needed it after viewing a demonstration of its capabilities.

Despite having used it and its tools at open water, ice water, and rope rescues, car accidents and extrications, logging or industrial accidents, and wilderness rescues, including snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle accidents, many taxpayers in Rumford – including selectmen – mistakenly believe the vehicle is an ambulance, Byam said Thursday.

Others wrongfully call it a utility truck.

“Rescue 1 is not designed for or capable of transporting patients to the hospital,” he said. “Its function is to get victims out of dangerous situations and to an ambulance for transport. This is not an ambulance. It is a truck equipped with technical rescue equipment.”

The department used to have a utility truck that never had enough room to hold hydraulic extrication equipment or other rescue gear.

“Our ice rescue suits used to be kept in the basement and when you needed them, you had to go down and search until you found them,” Lt. Rob Dixon said.

Now, those suits and other water and ice rescue gear are kept on Rescue 1, which has seven compartments, several with pullout trays to make access easier.

In addition to water rescue, rope rescue, first-aid, and traffic control equipment, the truck carries fire extinguishers, fuel-spill cleanup gear, axes and hand tools, extrication equipment, power tools, saws and a generator, a rescue basket and related equipment, vehicle stabilization equipment and blocking, self contained breathing apparatus air packs, and 2-inch fire hose.

It also has air bags used to lift heavy objects, miscellaneous small equipment and a tool box, and can haul a trailer containing a rescue toboggan and an ice rescue sled.

“It’s the total package with whatever you need in technical rescue tools when you need it,” firefighter Bob Chase said.

When the department had a utility truck, it had to be hand-loaded with gear from storage when sent on entrapment calls. Dixon said it used to take 8 to 10 minutes to get going on extrication work.

With the Rescue 1 truck, it takes 20 seconds.

“It’s a huge difference,” Dixon said.

That’s why Byam is inviting the public to visit the station any day to view Rescue 1, so people can see for themselves that it’s neither an ambulance nor a utility truck.

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