Check Out This Insane Crane-Equipped Rescue Vehicle Used by San Diego Lifeguards

We really want to see this thing in action.

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High-angle rescues can be one of the most complicated extrications a department can do. Fortunately, the San Diego Lifeguards, a division of the San Diego Fire Department, has a special tool up their sleeves. 

Originally, San Diego Lifeguards—along with every other department in the U.S.—were forced to use manual rigging and extrication devices to retrieve an injured party. The traditional process of finding an anchor point, setting up rigging, and hoisting down a lifeguard can take upwards of an hour depending on the situation. This is problematic for proper patient care, as the "golden hour" associated with a traumatic injury is a crucial time frame where the patient needs to get to a trauma center. After that hour, the chance of survival or a full recovery drastically decline.

In comes Rescue 44, a one-of-a-kind piece of equipment designed by Pierce Manufacturing and the San Diego lifeguards. Everything beyond the Pierce chassis/cab is custom. From specially-designed cabinetry to the massive crane hanging off the back, Rescue 44 is specifically designed for the San Diego coastline. Since the vast majority of cliffs and rock ledges in San Diego are able to be accessed from above, a mechanical high-angle rescue vehicle makes a lot of sense. 

Rescue 44 is based off a Pierce Saber 4x4 and utilizes a crane from International Mold and Tool (IMT). The crane is capable of hoisting 15,000 pounds at a 10-foot horizontal extension, and 1,920 pounds at a whopping 56-foot horizontal extension. This allows Lifeguards to safely park the rig away from a crumple zone and still be able to extend to boom far beyond the cliff's edge. 

Rescue 44 cost $540,000 to build, but it currently responds to 50-60 cliff rescues a year. It also makes an appearance in certain confined space rescues, swift water rescues, and flood water rescues. However, its gross weight of 45,000 prevents the vehicle from traveling on soft sand. 

Rescue 44 responds with two lifeguards (also certified EMTs) on board and they are met on the scene by two more rescue vehicles, normally Toyota Tundras or 4Runners. Once all personnel are on scene, the vehicle is set up for the task at hand. To ensure no secondary incidents occur, the crane and winch can be remotely operated and are equipped with load and stability sensor.

Rescue 44 replaced an old de-commissioned cherry picker that was used by the city before the San Diego Lifeguards. Do you have any interesting vehicle in your fleet? Tell us about it in the comments below.