New UTV to expedite Orange Fire Department’s limited-access rescues, firefighting

  • The Orange Fire Department has already used its new utility task vehicle, pictured at the Fire Station, for a rescue in Wendell State Forest. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Orange firefighters Tim Matthews and John Smith check out the new utility task vehicle with an 80-gallon water tank, a 5-gallon foam tank, a gas-powered fire pump and space for a portable stretcher. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 2/26/2021 7:45:47 PM

ORANGE — The Fire Department received its new utility task vehicle in February and has already put it to use.

Fire Chief James Young said his crew members got a Kubota UTV at the beginning of the month and deployed it on Feb. 21 to extricate a cross-country skier injured in a remote section of Wendell State Forest. He explained it is a multipurpose vehicle that can be used for wildland firefighting in areas “where we can’t get larger pieces of apparatus” and for rescues in limited-access areas like mountains. The vehicle also has a portable stretcher for injured people.

“In the past, we would have been carrying them out by hand,” the chief said, adding that rescuers would often have to share the responsibility so an injured person wouldn’t be dropped when a rescuer became fatigued. “It’s a very laborious process without that piece of equipment.”

Young said the diesel-powered vehicle has a four-wheel drive system and is equipped with rubber tracks to increase its capabilities and allow it to travel on deep snow.

“So it basically functions like a snowmobile in the winter,” Young said, adding that it also has rubber tires that will be installed in the summer.

The Kubota’s firefighting capacity consists of 80 gallons of water, 5 gallons of foam and a Honda gas-powered fire pump. Young, who has been chief about for about five and a half years, said he wishes his department had the vehicle during the summer’s brush fires at Tully Mountain in Orange and Joshua Hill in Leverett.

Young explained this purchase’s origins lie at Annual Town Meeting, when voters allocated money for a new brush truck chassis. However, the Fire Department later won a competitive federal grant to replace its “very well-loved” 2001 brush truck in its entirety. So the money was reallocated at a Special Town Meeting in September 2020. Young said the Kubota cost $26,000, while the unit in the back with the pump tank was $10,000 and a trailer that has been ordered cost another $10,000.

“It’s an unbelievable piece of equipment,” Young said. “So versatile.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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