It is a township that consists of 440 sq. miles and 18,000 full-time residents, ballooning to 30,000 in the summer months. Smack dab in the middle is Frontenac Provincial Park – an area dotted with lakes and canoe routes through 22 of those lakes. Hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing and camping abound. For the thousands of visitors and those who have summer cottages joining the full-timers in South Frontenac, it’s paradise.
"It really is a special place," said Rick Chesebrough, who serves as chief for the South Frontenac Fire Department. "It’s nature at its best and a throwback in time. People come here to relax and get back to nature."
For Chief Chesebrough and his crew of 150 volunteer firefighters, it’s also a place they proudly protect with a fleet of predominately Kenworth medium duty trucks configured as pumpers, tankers and rescue vehicles.
While nature and time may seem to stand still, the fire department is anything but. It’s progressive and leading edge. So much so that other departments have tended to follow its lead in equipment purchases and practices. "That tells us we’re doing things right," said Chesebrough, who became the department’s lone paid employee back in 2003. "It’s very gratifying to see other departments emulate what we’ve accomplished here."
Operating nine fire halls with five rescue vehicles, eight tankers and nine pumpers in total, the department has upgraded its equipment and received Superior Water Shuttle accreditation in 2006 by the Fire Underwriter’s Survey.
"We're running mostly Kenworth medium duty trucks – the T370 as our latest purchases," Chesebrough said. "By upgrading and having the right pieces of equipment, we’re able to continuously pump 700 gallons of water a minute to combat structural fires. That’s equivalent to using fire hydrants, but we do it with pumpers and tankers. We can draw from lakes and feed the pumpers, or send the tankers out and return with water. By being able to do this, and being certified, we’re saving homeowners up to 40 percent on their homeowners insurance. That’s huge. To pay for all this, we instituted a $35 surcharge for each $150,000 in home value, but that cost is minimal compared to their savings."
The volunteer fire department stays busy, according to Chief Chesebrough. "We'll get about 500 calls a year on average with about a third of those for medical emergencies from broken legs to cardiac arrests," he said. "We’ll also have three or four ice water rescues per season, plus we’ll respond to wildfires that are in our area. Fortunately, wildfires are down significantly since we implemented burning restrictions in the area."
As for equipment, the five fire rescue vehicles include two Kenworth T370s with another recently purchased and awaiting a custom body. The single-axle rescue vehicles are built with 18' van bodies with rear walk-in. Heavy hydraulics power a 'jaws of life' life-saving cutter, and tower lighting extends 10' above the rescue unit. "Those are our go-to vehicles for accident response and any water rescues," said Chesebrough.
Each unit in the tanker fleet, which features three Kenworth tandem-axle T370s, carries 2,500 gallons of water. They’re designed for multi-use – being a water supply for the pumpers, as well as a self-contained fire apparatus, shooting water at a rate of 840 gallons a minute – emptying their tanks in a mere two-and-a-half minutes. The latest Kenworth T370, configured as a tanker, is powered with a PACCAR PX-9 engine rated at 380-hp, while the new T370 rescue chassis features the PACCAR PX-9 engine rated at 350hp. Each Kenworth is driven through Allison automatics.
Rounding out the department’s equipment are the nine pumpers, including two 2006 Kenworth single-axle T300s with 800-gallon tanks, coupled with 30-gallon foam tanks for fire suppression.
Chesebrough’s prior experience working for the ministry of transportation and as a truck driver strong influenced his equipment choices as the township’s fire chief. "I know the importance of being able to spec a truck for the specific job at hand," he said. "My experience taught me the importance of reliability, durability and workmanship in a vehicle. Since we keep our equipment for 25 years and the investment in the chassis and body can range from $350,000 on up, it’s critical to make the right choice and have the right specs.
"We’ve found the Kenworths we’ve run to be just fantastic," continued Chesebrough. "They have great visibility and a sharp turning radius and a cab that can be configured for the work we do. When we worked with our Kenworth dealer (Kenworth Ontario in nearby Kingston), we went into great detail on what we needed. We didn’t have to compromise – Kenworth understands the needs of fire chiefs and how the equipment will be used. That goes from building the truck all the way to dealer support. Kenworth Ontario – Kingston supports us 24 hours a day. We never have to worry about downtime – it’s been an exceptional relationship we’ve forged with our dealer."
Since the fire trucks don’t put on many miles, they’re maintained on a time schedule. And they’re cleaned after every emergency use. "You’d be hard-pressed to tell what year any of our trucks are," said Chief Chesebrough. "They look great, but better than that, they perform great. It’s why we showcase our Kenworths at the annual Ontario Fire Chiefs Conference. Other chiefs walk around those trucks and walk away understanding what we’ve come to appreciate over the years. That’s a gratifying feeling."