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SpecialFire Chief Tim Prather discusses the options a new ambulance can provide to the county.

The performance of a new ambulance could provide the county with options for upgrading the ambulance fleet in the future.

During last week’s meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, the board approved an insurance settlement for $82,000 for a Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services ambulance that was declared totaled, while the incident was not the ambulance driver’s fault. Although the vehicle was determined to be totaled, Fire Chief Tim Prather said the box — or treatment portion — of the ambulance was fine and could be used again.

In order to get another ambulance on the road and the agency’s fleet back to full strength, the commissioners approved allowing for the salvaged box taken off the totaled chassis and remounted onto a new one. However, instead of purchasing a truck with a diesel engine as it has over the past several years, Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services decided to go with a gasoline-fueled vehicle to replace what was lost.

One reason the agency decided to go with a gasoline-fueled truck over a diesel one was the turnaround time, Prather said. The company involved said they could have the truck ready to go for the county’s use within 90 days, while obtaining a new diesel-fueled ambulance would take several months to be delivered due to these models being in higher demand. Prather explained that a pair of diesel ambulances Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services ordered earlier this year will not be delivered until January, and if the county were to order one to replace the totaled ambulance immediately, it would not arrive until July 2020.

Another issue the diesel ambulances have been having, according to Prather, involves some of the newer emissions measures installed in diesel systems. Along with this, there have been times when the engine will notify the ambulance driver it has to enter a certain operational mode, where the ambulance will have to be taken out and reach a certain speed on the road for this mode to be entered. When this notification pops up while the ambulance is transporting a patient, it becomes even more of an issue to deal with.

Depending on how the new gas-burning truck performs once it arrives, Prather said the county may consider the option of, when older ambulances are ready to be taken out of service and replaced with newer vehicles, going more with gasoline-powered trucks over diesel fuel ones. Not only will it take less time for them to be delivered, but they are also cheaper than their diesel counterparts, thus helping the county save money.

When the time comes to replace older ambulances, the agency has also considered the option of taking the box off of the truck chassis and mounting it onto a new one, provided the new chassis is the same overall kind as the old one and is a proper fit for the box. This option provides the county another way to help save the county money when upgrading its ambulance fleet.

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