Equipment Purchase Helps with Backwoods RescuesSubmitted: 03/19/2013
Story By Lex Gray

RHINELANDER - The extra snow means extra, late-season snowmobiling.

In Arbor Vitae, this year has been a little safer than years past.

The Arbor Vitae Fire Department bought a John Deere Gator. They've been using it since mid-December.

The Gator can easily climb snow banks and drive through deep snow.

It will help rescuers reach people faster, even if they're deep in the woods.

"We have miles and miles of snowmobile trails up here, accidents can happen anywhere from one mile off of a highway up to about 20 miles off into the woods," said first responder Ben Woynich. "Vehicles like this give us the accessibility, give us safety and comfort on the way out there, we have great communication abilities with it."

Rescue Chief Stan Lewis used the gator to save a man's life in February.

A snowmobiler rolled into a ravine, and his sled landed on top of him while he was driving about a mile and a half off Highway 70.

It took the department just 20 minutes to reach him after they got the call.

"I was definitely glad, all the time and effort putting into researching and finding out what machine we wanted, and what we wanted the bed to look like," Lewis said. "It made me happy to finally use it and see that it does work and that we're able to use it in practical situations."

The gator cost $30,000. The department used money they get from responding to crashes on state highways.

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