Alachua Fire activates 1st heavy rescue unit

7 firefighters wash a fire truck
Crew for the Heavy Rescue 23 ceremonially wash the vehicle before it's rolled into Station 23 for service.

Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) placed its newest unit into service on Tuesday morning, pushing Heavy Rescue 23 into Fire Station 23 on Fort Clark Boulevard.  

Harold Theus, ACRF chief, said the three-person unit represents the first heavy rescue vehicle for the county. The unit will replace ACFR’s Squad 23, which entered service in 2005. 

ACFR Chief Harold Theus stands at a lectern in a fire house.
Photo by Seth Johnson Alachua County Fire Rescue Chief Harold Theus said the county replaces a unit every year or two.

“We started with this truck probably three years ago with a dream, knowing that we had to replace the squad,” Theus said at a push-in ceremony on Tuesday. 

Unlike a typical fire truck, the heavy unit carries no water. Instead, rescue equipment fills every nook and cranny. The unit will respond to structural fires and any type of crash and urban rescue situation. 

ACFR custom designed the unit with the manufacturer to fit local needs. The vehicle took 18 months to build and cost just under $1 million.  

Marihelen Wheeler, chair of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, said at the ceremony that ACFR represents the last uncontroversial heroes in society. 

“It’s real easy to support a team of people like you folks who are heroes in our community,” Wheeler said. 

Theus said Station 23 serves as a prime location for the unit because of fast access to I-75 and the growing urban nature of the western side of Alachua County. He said the station, between its different units, responds to approximately 3,500 calls a year.  

Photo by Seth Johnson Alachua County Fire Rescue members place the final piece of equipment on Heavy Rescue 23 as part of the ceremony to officially put the unit into service.

At the ceremony, the unit’s crew washed the vehicle, and county officials along with ACFR retirees pushed the unit up a slight incline and into the station—with a little help from the driver.  

Typically, a ceremony also involves transferring a bucket of water from the old to the new unit. But officials improvised since the new unit lacks water reserves, carrying the last piece of equipment from Squad 23 to Heavy Rescue 23 instead.  

Theus said Station 23’s quint will be the next unit to phase out, saying ACFR brings on a new vehicle every year or two. According to fire truck manufacturer Pierce, a quint combines the equipment abilities of a ladder truck and the water pumping of a fire engine. 

Photo by Seth Johnson Alachua County officials and retired Alachua County Fire Rescue staff push Heavy Rescue 23 into the station.
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