Fire commissioners vote to repair damaged ambulance

Published on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) ambulance involved in an accident last month will be repaired, saving the fire district almost $50,000.

An accident at Kickerville and Bay roads in Birch Bay on February 1 heavily damaged the ambulance and sent the two firefighters inside to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center with minor injuries. The ambulance was returning from a call and not carrying any patients.

The ambulance was taken to Braun Northwest, an emergency vehicle dealer and repair shop in Chehalis, NWFR assistant chief Henry Hollander said. Technicians there determined the patient compartment could be fixed and mounted on a new ambulance chassis.

Hollander said remounting the patient compartment, called the “box,” would be the most cost-efficient option. He estimated the cost to be approximately $95,000 and take about three months to get the ambulance back in service.

“It’s possible we could get an ambulance back here in 90 days,” Hollander said.

Hollander said the ambulance was a 2006 model, the oldest of three ambulances the district recently bought. The chassis had 76,000 miles on it.

Buying a new ambulance could run as much as  $142,000 and take more than six months to receive, Hollander explained. The new ambulance would need to be custom built and outfitted with thousands of dollars’ worth of emergency equipment.

The district received about $115,000 from their insurance company to cover the damages to the ambulance. Of that amount, $95,000 will pay for the remount, while the remainder will go toward replacing emergency equipment damaged in the accident.
At last Thursday’s meeting, NWFR fire commissioners voted unanimously to repair and remount the existing box with little discussion.

“It’s a no-brainer,” commissioner Bill Salter said.

Hollander and acting fire chief Jeff Hofstad said the $95,000 expenditure would comply with state bidding requirements. Hollander said they might not have to go out to bid for the repair since Braun Northwest is the state’s only large-scale emergency vehicle dealer and repair shop.

“Whichever way we go, we will get the [state] auditor’s OK,” Hollander said.