Even after four months, it still has that new car smell.
Bellwood Rural Fire District No. 5 purchased a new ambulance in January. While the station typically buys them used, this one is a newer model.
Fire Chief Matt Gangwish said the station always has two ambulances on hand at all times, typically replacing them after 10 years of use. One of these vehicles was built in 1996 and was starting to show its age. Firefighters were experiencing issues with its emergency lights and problems with its transmission. So about two years ago, the station set out to find a replacement.
The last two ambulances the Bellwood department bought came used from the fire station in Bennington. But recently, Bennington switched to a larger model on a 15-year rotation. So when it came time for Bellwood to buy, it was forced to shop elsewhere.
Bill Macoubrie serves as secretary-treasurer on the Bellwood Rural Fire District Board. He said the demand for used ambulances in the area is high right now and that it's difficult to find one in good condition that’s also affordable. The station eventually stumbled upon a Demers Stock Unit Type 1 Ambulance on a Ford F450 4x4 chassis from Danko Emergency Equipment.
This ambulance was a demonstration unit that has traveled around the country to different vendor shows. While it did have 16,000 miles, the truck had never been used to transport a person. Due to it being a demo, the vehicle had more features than a standard ambulance but was priced the same.
“It seemed like the price was right, and we got more features than we would have been able to afford if we got one new,” Macoubrie said.
The new unit is a larger truck with more safety features such as harnesses for EMTs in the back to wear, improved suspension and an updated locking mechanism for cots. Macoubrie described the new truck as a smoother ride, saying it was the difference between driving a Model-T and a Cadillac.
Bellwood bought the ambulance for $194,000. Gangwish said the station was able to issue a new municipal bond to help pay for it and hopes to have the vehicle completely paid off in five years.
“It’s pretty fancy. It's very nice. A very good upgrade for our department,” Gangwish said. “Every so often you’ve got to upgrade things, and this was the next thing on our list.”
Gangwish said the 28-member station has already made use of the ambulance. It even saw some action during the recent flood rescue operation in March at Bellwood Lakes. Gangwish said he hopes to make the newly crowned vehicle last for 20 years since ambulances are tools used frequently by the station.
“Ambulance runs on every call, that’s why it’s kind of the most important,” Gangwish said. “I don't care if it's a car on fire or if it's a car accident or a cornfield on fire, the ambulance runs on every call in case somebody would get hurt. Whether it's a firefighter or somebody there, we always have the ambulance there to handle that.”
As for the old ambulance, Gangwish said it was auctioned off through Kobza Auction and Realty in David City and was sold to a well-drilling company in Lexington that planned to use it as a utility truck for its tools.
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.