New ambulance on the job in Dillingham

Sep 13, 2017

The 2016 Dodge 3500 Diesel with automated lift and CPR capabilities has been in service for a few weeks. A $55,000 state grant helped cover the roughly $250,000 cost for the city's new ambulance.

Chief Heyano and fire coordinator Tinker show off some of the features of the new ambulance to the city mayor, manager, and others last Thursday.
Credit KDLG

The Dillingham Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad showed off their new Dodge ambulance to city officials before the council meeting on September 7.

Purchasing a new ambulance has been on the city’s to-do list for five years, and the Ambulance Replacement Fund had an ample balance to cover the cost. The council approved the purchase in April, and the ambulance arrived on the barge this summer.

Vol. Fire Chief Norman “Koolie” Heyano and fire department coordinator Braden Tinker stumbled into a deal while they were shopping for a new ambulance. It turned out Braun Northwest, an emergency response vehicle builder in Chehalis, WA, had a demo model that met the city’s specifications. Purchasing that ambulance saved the city an estimated $10,000 and six month wait to build one from the ground up.

The base price was $141,000, but the city added a power load system and a CPR compression machine, adding $90,000 to the cost. With inspections and freight, the total bill was $242,000 for the 2016 Dodge 3500 Diesel delivered. The city applied a $55,000 state EMS grant and spent $187,000 out of the ambulance fund for the life-saving vehicle.

The new ambulance is much larger and more spacious than the vehicle it’s replacing, and the city had to have a new door installed at the downtown station to accommodate it. That was an extra $35,000 cost added to the upgrade.

According to Tinker, the new features on the ambulance, in particular the electrically-lifted gurney and the Lucas automated CPR device, will reduce the number of volunteers needed for some responses, and reduce how much work is required on-scene.

“We have an automatic kneeling feature, once the door’s open it kneels down for you so you don’t have to switch any buttons or move anything around, and a battery-operated electric cot that will hold and lift 700 pounds,” he said.

The CPR machine automates the lifesaving compressions.

“Once we’ve got it on it keeps the responders free to perform other duties while it handles CPR. It operates just like a person’s hands would on the middle of a chest and does compressions,” said Tinker.

These mechanical assists should allow two responders to handle emergencies that used to require several more just to help lift. For an almost entirely volunteer force, these improvements are worth every penny, said Tinker.

“It’s paid itself off in the last couple calls we’ve already had where we had to do heavy lifting. It’s just a push of a button now instead of manual lifting.”

The Dodge is now the city’s Ambulance #2 and will be housed at the downtown fire station. The old #2, a 1991 F-350, will still be in service while #1, a 1994 model, and #3, a 2004 model, are both serviced. Then the old #2 will either be sold as surplus or repurposed for use with the fire department if there is space available to house it. 

liam@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281

The new ambulance is larger than its predecessor, and the city spent $35,000 to build a new garage door at the downtown fire hall to house it.
Credit KDLG