With the Urbana Fire Division’s newest ambulance closing in on 10 years of service, City Council in February decided it was time to upgrade the three-squad fleet and approved spending Capital Improvement-Police & Fire Tax Levy Fund dollars on a 2017 Freightliner chassis outfitted with a Horton custom-built ambulance.
Since putting the squad into service on Nov. 3, the UFD has wasted little time breaking in the $249,275.88 investment.
“It’s probably been on over 200 calls already,” Chief Mark Keller said. “It’s actually done a pretty good job so far. We are very happy with it.”
Referred to by the division as Medic 1, the unit provides emergency personnel with access to modern equipment not available in the city’s other two squads – Medic 2 (a 2007 International chassis/Horton ambulance) and Medic 3 (a 2001 International chassis/Horton ambulance).
Keller said a committee consisting of two captains (Jerry Kirk and Jason Croker) and two firefighter/paramedics (Barry Wolf and Chad Countryman) were put in charge of deciding the specifications of the new unit. Two of the most notable improvements on the squad, he said, involve the windows and the operating system.
“The windows we can set up as privacy windows where we can fog them out,” Keller said. “A lot of times we do 12-lead EKGs or we have to expose a patient. It’s difficult to do these when there are windows right there that people can look through to see what is going on. Now, no one can see in if we set it that way. It’s a big plus.”
Keller added the squad also contains a state-of-the-art computer system that does everything but drive Medic 1.
“Basically, the entire time it’s watching to see how things are going to make sure the vehicle is doing what it’s suppose to do,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”
If a problem does arise with the system, instead of driving to the Horton facility in Grove City or waiting for a technician to arrive, Horton is able to email the UFD a file that can be copied to a thumb drive and plugged into the unit for a quick fix.
As for the city’s relationship with Horton Emergency Vehicles, Keller said there is a reason the UFD prefers them over others – quality.
“We don’t buy ambulances that are on the shelf or that kind of thing,” he said. “Horton builds custom ambulances. The reason we’ve been loyal to them is because they have always been a very superior product for us with very little issues.
“You may spend a little more money in the beginning, but it saves a lot in the mechanical part of it on the backside,” Keller added.
New life for old squad, plans for Medic 2
When Medic 1 was put into service earlier this month, the city’s oldest ambulance – a 1997 International Chassis/Horton ambulance – was removed from the rotation.
Instead of selling the vehicle, the UFD decided to commission it as a rehab unit.
Along with being used to rush extra air tanks and refreshments to emergency personnel in need, Keller added, “Either one of us (UFD or Box 13) could take it out to a fire scene or a long-term incident to help keep everyone either warm, dry or cool.”
Keller said instead of purchasing a new ambulance in five years or so, the plan is for Medic 2 to be rechassised.
“We plan to put the current box on a new chassis and save around 30 percent on the cost of a new unit,” he said. “We’ve got right around $50,000 in maintenance costs on that unit (to date), and 95 percent of it involves the chassis.
“We are well aware of the budget constraints that we have, and we are trying to make every dollar count. We want to try to save as much money as possible but still have viable units,” Keller added.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.