Oklahoma Fire Department Sees Red With its Ambulance

It's big, red and has flashing lights and sirens, but it's not the Owasso Fire Department's newest fire engine but its new ambulance.

Mickey Lewis, an Owasso firefighter, said the new ambulance is red instead of the more traditional white with orange stripes like the other two units so it can be identified with the fire department.

"We'll get there before the (fire truck) and people will say, 'We wanted the fire department, not an ambulance,'" Lewis said of driving the older ambulances.

The Owasso Fire Department is one of a handful of departments in the state where the ambulances are run by the fire department, said Mark Stuckey, assistant fire chief.

"We're one of the first fire-based EMT (emergency medical technicians) stations," Stuckey said, and every firefighter is also trained as a medic. "It's a good system and allows us to respond quicker. On scene, we have medical and rescue capabilities."

Because the ambulances are kept in the fire stations, they are based in the community.

Stuckey said the majority of the calls they receive are medical.

"Our call volume has increased dramatically," he said. "We had over 2,600 ambulance calls during the year."

The department acquired the third ambulance for the third station that will be built at 145th East Avenue and 100th Street North. It will open by August 2007. The new $212,000 ambulance was funded through residents' water bills.

A committee drew up the specifications of the new ambulance almost two years ago, Stuckey said, and older models influenced the design of the new one.

"This unit has a smoother ride for patients," he said. "The Mercedes Benz engine is quieter. We changed the suspension, and it holds up longer."

Stuckey said the new ambulance will last five to seven years. The department put a program in place that ensures no station has an ambulance more than eight years old.

The oldest ambulance, a 2000 model, will soon receive a new chaise, transmission and suspension.

The firefighters who have taken the new unit on calls noticed the difference between it and the other ambulances.

"It's like night and day," said firefighter Tom Robinson.

Said fellow firefighter Kip Jennings: "It's nice to drive a new truck. When it got here, everyone took it out and drove it."

For now, the new vehicle is running out of station No. 1 at 8901 N. Garnett Road.

"Station 2 wanted it, but station 1 had the oldest one, so we got it," Stuckey said. "Everyone is anxious to drive it and work out of it."

Clark said he has noticed the smoother ride and better transmission.

"I was driving down Main Street and looked down and I was going 50 (mph)," Clark said.

In addition to the changes under the hood, the new ambulance has new safety features.

"It has an infrared system so we can see at night in rural areas," Stuckey said. "We can find victims that may have been thrown from a vehicle."

Other safety features include a camera on the back and LED lights, which are easier to see in daylight.

The new unit has other amenities, too.

"We have two cup holders," Lewis said. "And a CD player."

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