From a Northern Lite 10-2 EX and Ford F-550 flatbed, Andrew Yurchuck, Founder and CEO of Bio-Clean of New Jersey, has seen and cleaned things beyond comprehension. From terrorist attacks to meth labs (and worse) there’s nothing Andrew and his team can’t handle. Caution: You may never look at truck campers the same way again.
We often tout our slogan of ‘Go Anywhere, Camp Anywhere, Tow Anything’ as the shining hallmarks of versatility we enjoy as truck campers. After learning about Andrew Yurchuck and his Bio-Clean of New Jersey business, those same three attributes take on a very different meaning.
Where we might go truck camping at the lake or in the mountains, Andrew goes to where the darkest and most dangerous events are unfolding. Where we might camp off-grid on BLM lands, Andrew camps off-grid at active disaster and crime scenes. And where we might tow a boat or ATVs, Andrew tows a bio-hazard trailer equipped for anything from mass shootings to pandemics.
A lot of us consider our truck campers to be Family Emergency Vehicles to escape a hurricane, forest fire, flood, or (god forbid) man-made attack. Andrew has the same thing in mind, only in a professional context, and with the exact opposite plan. What we escape from, Andrew drives into, engages directly, and then camps on site.
None of that prepares you for what follows. Andrew has written up an account of what his company does, why he chose a truck and camper for his work, and some of the absolutely unbelievable things he’s seen and experienced. This is not your typical PG Truck Camper Magazine story. Oh no. This one might stay with you.
Above: Andrew’s Northern Lite 10-2EX and Ford F-550
Bio-Clean Camps The Disaster Scenes
by Andrew Yurchuck, Founder and CEO, Bio-Clean of New Jersey
I am the owner of Bio-Clean of New Jersey and Florida. We are a boutique company that specializes in biohazard recovery such as decontaminating homicides, suicides, death scenes, and clandestine drug labs. We responded to Ground Zero 9/11 and the DC anthrax attacks.
Camping has been a part of my life since I was six years old. My mother was a lifelong camper and owned an RV. She was a schoolteacher. In the summer we would drive around the country for two months until the money ran out. We did that from when I was 6 to 15 years old. She gave me the love of camping and encouraged me to start my company.
I started getting involved as an EMT in training (Emergency Medical Technician) when I was 16 and by 18, I was a part-time EMT. I went to college for facility management and got into parks and recreation working at pools and fitness centers, all of them had the same problems, maintenance and janitorial.
My company, Bio-Clean was born out of a specialty niche. It’s a combination of my EMS and cleaning experience. I started by doing one job and then another. Bio-Clean started with $2,000 on a credit card.
Our first RV was with a 30-foot Class C toy hauler because it carried 400 gallons of water in a belly tank. Then we moved to a 30-foot toy hauler trailer. I had that hauler set up to respond to Ebola. It was perfect for long-term disasters and had a place to shower, secure equipment, set up coms, and rehab. For close-in missions, it was clear that we needed a smaller and more deployable unit.
We initially went with a small truck camper; a Travel Lite Rayzr. That was the perfect rig because it had a powerful air conditioner unit. I could get the temperature down to 68 degrees on the hottest day. We wear Tyvex biohazard suits. Heat stress is a problem.
Then Covid hit. We needed a shower and towing capacity. That’s when we upgraded to a Northern Lite and Ford F-550 with a flatbed by CM Truck Beds. Hotels were closed, so a truck and camper was the best and only solution.
Bio-Clean’s decontamination equipment is mostly powered by lithium batteries. We can be off-grid and charge all our equipment via the Victron system in the Northern Lite. The remaining equipment runs off of portable Honda suitcase-style generators. The F-550 allows us to carry more equipment deeper into the field.
One of the reasons we went with a gas engine instead of a diesel engine is that gas is easier to obtain during emergencies. We also wanted one fuel type. We use gasoline to run our generators. I can carry 120 gallons of extra fuel in portable auxiliary tanks.
Our truck camper allows us to tow a trailer. Just like the military, we have mission-specific load-out systems. We have a bio-hazard trailer equipped to deploy to any health-related bio-hazard event; mass shootings, homicide, suicide, or Covid; whatever the event. We also have a training trailer equipped with a laser firearms simulator.
Our trailer also doubles as a classroom to hold up to sixteen people. The unit has a projector and three video monitors. The trailer has high-end computers that can present anything from the use of force programs to PowerPoint programs. We also use a large 15-yard materials trailer and a couple of small box trailers.
In addition to decontaminating biohazards, crime scenes, and drug labs, we teach a host of specialized training classes including Crime Scene Decontamination, Use of Force for Law Enforcement, Drug Lab Chemistry for Law Enforcement, Hazardous Materials, and General Industry Safety Training.
I carry Ryobi 18 and 40-volt power and cleaning tools. The tools include two chainsaws, one that telescopes, and a weed eater with a brush cutter and edger. Battery-operated blowers, power brushes, air compressors, air inflaters, air mover saws, sawzaws, lights, pressure washers, and flashlights round out our equipment.
The tools use standard Ryobi batteries, charged off the sun, and the F-550’s DC/DC charger. I chose Ryobi because, In a disaster, Home Depot will be the first place open; guaranteed. Having a commercial truck and flatbed to move supplies and equipment adds to our versatility. We also carry a Zodiac 4-meter inflatable boat for maritime ops and Minelab metal detectors.
Maggie, our English Bulldog, provides companionship and security on the road. My partner, Amber, is the Director of Biological Science for Bio-Clean. She is a marine biologist and does a lot of marine research work. We work around the water a lot. It’s exciting to help Amber with her research.
I have a full weather station on the truck camper. Weather plays an important role in research and disaster response. It’s kind of important to know what way the wind is blowing to avoid the mushroom cloud.
The mobility the camper gives us is amazing. We have been up and down the Eastern seaboard.
We have deployed to most major disasters like Ground Zero in New York City and the anthrax attacks in Washington DC.
For those disasters, we participated in direct clean-up operations. For the anthrax attacks, we did direct decontamination of the mailroom in a federal mail facility.
A dream team of decontamination guys; Doug Griffith of Bio-Clean of Colorado, Kent Burg of Scene Recovery International, myself, and firefighter Khary Hunt did the direct Decon of the facility.
Those jobs happened before we thought of using a truck camper. We now use our truck and camper in urban settings all the time. We have stayed in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Center City in Philadelphia, and downtown New Orleans.
One of the nice things is that staying onsite at a disaster scene is usually not a problem. We don’t work Monday through Friday, so staying in the camper has even more advantages. Specifically, we can work around the clock and provide security while the decontamination process takes place.
Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy are just some of the natural disasters we have responded to. After the hurricanes, we removed water-damaged materials from homes and businesses.
With rising water, marine life can end up inside structures and, of course, wet building materials mean mold and mildew. We did a lot of structural drying and cleaning for both events.
Some of the tougher jobs we do are suicides. With suicides, we are usually dealing with residue from the loss. I look at suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Life is full of ups and downs. It disappoints me when I see someone take their own life, especially when the problem is temporary. I focus on the victims and their families, and how I can help. The national suicide hotline is 988.
The dog house we had to clean out was terrible. We are animal lovers and it was heartbreaking to see the conditions the dogs were living in. Part of being a professional is being able to put your game face on and do your job. The dog job took five days. Ironically, shortly after we cleaned out the house, it was set on fire.
Above: The video above is pretty gruesome, but it’s what Andrew and Amber do for BioClean
Right around the same time as the dog house, our client contracted us with five terrible jobs in a row. The absolute worst of the worst was the rat house.
A lady was feeding rats dog food. There were 600 to 700 rats in her house. Eventually, the rats started attacking her five dogs. She would leave her house and 40 to 50 rats would follow her out and she would go back in the house and they would follow her back in it was a serious public health problem. We coordinated extermination and mitigated the cleanup of the home.
After dealing with disasters like the ones I’m sharing and many others, I am beyond traumatized. (Yurchuck jokes) I try to have good humor about it all, even though what I see and experience is serious and awful. There is no way to prepare for what I do. I just go in and do what needs to be done. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I know that I am helping people on possibly the worst day of their lives. It could be a deceased loved one, a victim of violent crime, or even a hurricane that devastated everything they own. The people I help just had a sudden loss. Everyone deals with grief differently and I have to manage that. You never have the right answer but, from a fulfillment point of view, I know I’m helping these people.
Our truck camper rig is our mobile command center. We are set up to boondock and stay on-site for extended periods of time. This gives us great flexibility and range that other companies just can’t compete with. Bio-Clean regularly deploys to disasters in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Florida asserting our business presence up and down the East Coast.
I have spent almost 30 years as an emergency operations professional covering all types of disasters. Disasters can and do happen. As a professional, I chose a truck camper as my primary platform. A truck camper gives the best bang for the buck as far as emergency versatility. The ability to switch load outs and keep on rolling is another important advantage.
To learn more about what Andrew and his team do at BioClean, check out BioClean of New Jersey and Florida.