Smaller Vehicle to Respond to Boulder EMS Calls

Smaller Vehicle to Respond to Boulder EMS Calls

News Dec 18, 2012

Dec. 18--The Boulder firefighters union and the fire department are at odds over the use of a "light response vehicle," with the fire chief saying the truck will save money and union representatives arguing it could lengthen response times.

Starting Jan. 1, the Boulder Fire Department will station a light response vehicle -- a pickup truck equipped with sirens and lights -- at the fire station at 2441 13th St. to respond to medical calls as part of a two-year study.

"When we did our master plan, we took a look at the number of calls the fire department goes on, and 62 percent are medical emergencies," said Boulder Fire Chief Larry Donner. By using the light response vehicle on those medical calls, the fire department is hoping to reduce fuel costs as well as wear and tear on the larger vehicles.

The pickup truck cost $60,000 after being outfitted with sirens and a camper to hold medical equipment, while the department's new ladder truck cost about $1 million.

"We're just looking to see if there are any savings we can demonstrate on fuel and wear and tear on the larger apparatuses," Donner said.

But the Boulder chapter of the International Association of Firefighters sent a letter to Donner objecting to the use of the light response vehicle, saying it could increase response times and lead to safety concerns. When the station has minimum staffing, if a crew on the light response vehicle got a call about a fire, it would have to go back to the station and pick up the engine as opposed to going straight to the scene.

"Right now, in the time it takes us to get there, we're there, because we already have the truck," said Donald Olguin, president of the Boulder Firefighters IAFF. "But with the LRV we would have to go back and get the truck, and by the time you get there it could be too late."

Olguin said the union is upset that after telling Donner it was opposed to the idea, he created a committee to research the light response vehicle but then told the Boulder City Council that the department would go ahead with the study.

"I feel we were deceived by our chief setting up a committee to study it when they already went ahead and approved it," Olguin said.

In its letter, the union also said the change might cost Boulder residents when it comes to home insurance. The city now has a Class 4 fire safety rating from the Insurance Services Office, but the union said that would fall to a Class 5 with the use of the light response vehicle.

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Donner disagreed.

"I don't believe this will drop us to a Class 5," Donner said. "The thing to remember is the ladder truck will be in service, so it's not like we're pulling it out of service and substituting with the LRV."

The union also argued that the amount of fuel saved would not be enough to warrant the safety risks.

Donner said he met with union representatives and heard their complaints, but for now the program will go on as scheduled.

"I have talked to union officials, and obviously they didn't like the decision to put it in service," he said. "We'll continue to review the program and refine it as necessary."

Olguin, a 37-year veteran of the Boulder Fire Department, said he is still concerned about the safety of the firefighters and the community.

"We're going to do the best we can to be safe and be careful," he said. "But if it doesn't work, we don't want to keep using it. Everything is working right now taking the big fire trucks and going on medical calls."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or byarsm@dailycamera.com.

Copyright 2012 - Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

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Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
Mitchell Byars
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