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Former ambulance will be converted to light-rescue vehicle for fire department

By Howard B. Owens

Fire Chief Ralph Hyde will get his light-rescue vehicle, and it's the one he's requested during at least three City Council meetings now.

After a 20-minute discussion at last night's council meeting, the council sort of collectively shrugged and said, "go ahead."

At the end of the discussion, after saying Hyde has "our blessing," Council President Charlie Mallow motioned his hands like a priest, which drew a laugh.

Hyde has sought permission to convert one of the former ambulances -- the newest one, bought within the past year with a state grant -- into a vehicle that could carry additional rescue equipment that doesn't fit on either Ladder 15 or Engine 12.

Council members dithered, asking him to justify the need for the ambulance as a rescue vehicle. Then they asked him to research the option of selling the ambulance and purchasing a new truck, since the ambulance already has 50,000 miles on it.

Hyde's report Monday night put the cost at a new vehicle at between $65,000 and $189,000.

"It would take a $1,000 to convert it, so it’s far cheaper than going out and getting a new vehicle," Hyde said. "And It’s something that we’ve needed for many years."

Previously, Hyde's argument for the ambulance didn't include using some space inside the vehicle to give people displaced from their homes by fire a place to stay warm.

"In the past, we've had people have to wait outside for 30 minutes to an hour, and had to send firefighters in to retrieve shoes and jackets," Hyde said.

The table and benches inside could also serve as a convenient place to interview fire witnesses.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski complained that he thought the purpose of getting rid of the ambulance service was to save money and he expected all six of the city's ambulances to be sold. Mallow pointed out that previously, the council resolution only authorized the sale of the five older ambulances.

A vote was not required on the decision to convert the ambulance into a light-rescue vehicle since the city owns it and it's already assigned to the Fire Department.

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