The Piedmont Rescue Squad on Monday received a $10,000 grant that will help pay for a compact, four-wheel-drive rescue vehicle by November. Members of the squad say it will enable first-responders to reach people in rural areas, atop mountains, deep in the woods and along trails, where full-sized rescue vehicles can’t go.
“It’s just basically like a small ambulance,” said Philip Winkles, chief of the rescue squad.
Winkles said he is not certain which vehicle the department will purchase, but he said he will likely buy a John Deere Gator, or another vehicle like it. He said the model he prefers has a small open-air cab with a roll bar and a short bed, which will be modified to carry an additional rescue worker, a stretcher and equipment.
Winkles said the vehicle will cost approximately $15,000, and the department will probably pay another $5,000 to extend the truck bed.
He said the vehicle will be ideal for reaching lost hunters, injured ATV riders and people on or near the Chief Ladiga and Pinhoti trails.
Rescue squad member Matt Meeks located the award on a website the department uses to find grants. Meeks said he applied for the money in July and learned the department would receive it in August.
The grant was supplied by the Plum Creek Foundation, the benevolent arm of the Plum Creek Timber Company, a national company that harvests trees locally. A representative of the Seattle-based company, Jim Bell, a forester who works in Georgia, was on hand Monday to deliver the check to the rescue squad.
“They like to make grants at the local community level,” Bell said of the company.
Anniston firefighter Lt. David Conde said his department purchased vehicles similar to the one planned for Piedmont’s rescue squad. The Anniston agency bought them to cut down the response time for emergency calls on the Coldwater Mountain bike trail. Since the purchase in spring, Conde said, the department has made about six rescues on the trail.
In Piedmont, the squad usually has about 20 rescue calls during deer hunting season, the busiest time of the year for them, Meeks said.
Two years ago the squad was called out to help rescue a man who had been injured in a four-wheeling accident while he rode atop a mountain in southern Cherokee County, the rescue workers said. It took rescuers four hours to reach him and fly him to a Birmingham hospital, but with their new equipment, a similar call would take about an hour.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.