South Morgan VFD trains members on new UTV unit for mountain fire & rescue response

Members of South Morgan Volunteer Fire department trained on the operation of their new UTV unit on Sunday, June 4. Company member Bryan Michael led the training session, which will certify qualified members to pull the apparatus on the trailer and operate the UTV in rough terrain to perform rescues or firefighting operations.

Pictured with the UTV, from left, are firefighter Eugene Shoemaker, South Morgan President Dale Heironimus, Vice President Robert Frey, John Shumar, Assistant Chief Brian McNelly and Bryan Michael. Not pictured, South Morgan Chief Mark Miller.

Because the UTV is smaller than the normal brush truck, Michael said it can go deeper in the woods and reach more rugged areas for fire operations or to retrieve someone in need of help.

The unit has a Stokes basket — a metal cage system that a person can be loaded onto. The basket can be carried on the top of the UTV to transport a patient out of a remote area.

South Morgan’s unit can also carry 75 gallons of water into firefighting scenes, and can transport four personnel.

Fire officials said they decided to buy the apparatus in part because of the addition of mountain bike trails to Cacapon State Park, which is in its first-due area. Several members have surveyed the new Thunderstruck trail, which drops 1,000 feet from the top of Cacapon Mountain, to ensure the UTV could reach potential rescue areas.

Both Cacapon and Sleepy Creek mountains are in the fire department’s primary response area.

Company volunteers have already used the UTV, called in to assist with the recovery of a body from a steep and wooded area off Winchester Grade Road during a police investigation.

The UTV and trailer, which cost roughly $50,000, were paid for by the fire company through donations from their supporters and ongoing fundraisers.

“Without the community’s support, it wouldn’t be possible for us to have this resource,” said company president Dale Heironimus.


South Morgan’s UTV unit and trailer pulled by an existing brush unit.