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New rescue vehicle in Orcutt will serve rural areas of northern Santa Barbara County

Posted at 9:03 PM, Jun 26, 2023

Firefighters have a new tool for rescues in rural areas of northern Santa Barbara County.

Fire Station 21 in Old Town Orcutt has a new UTV which can be used to quickly reach injured hikers or anyone trapped in a remote area.

Every second counts when someone’s injured and trapped in a hard-to-reach location.

“A helicopter may not be available due to weather conditions,” explained Santa Barbara County Fire Public Information Officer Scott Safechuck.

The new Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Station 21 is the latest addition to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s growing fleet of UTVs.

“It really opens up the manner in which we can respond to people in need in rural areas.

If they’re out on Guadalupe dunes, they’re in the riverbed or during a storm event—we can really get to them in a safe manner,” said Safechuck.

These vehicles can overcome a variety of obstacles/

“They can go over piles of telephone poles and Rock Piles,” adds Safechuck.

They’re also much cheaper than a fire engine or a pickup truck.

“A new fire engine right now is running between a million and a million point two where a cart like this—completely outfitted, you’re under $25,000,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Lee.

The rescue vehicles are also used by multiple fire agencies across San Luis Obispo County, including CAL FIRE.

“We have also been seeing it be very successful in open-space rescues so Pismo Preserve, Bob Jones Trail—places where the average fire engine can’t get into very easily,” explained Lee.

“This type of vehicle can get in very quickly, pick up a patient and transport them back out to the ambulance.”

UTVs can also be used in cities while responding to a flooding event, or other emergency.

“We can respond to a variety of different types of incidents whether it’s an urban search-and-rescue. It’s a fire incident, it’s a missing hiker and it can be used in a flooded town,” said Safechuck. “If you go back to the debris flow in Montecito—that’s where we really figured out our need or these types of vehicles.”

Firefighters undergo a 16-hour training course to get the feel of driving one of these UTVs.

They can carry up to five rescue personnel and an injured patient back to safety for treatment.