A look at Medic 375, the English Consul Volunteer Fire Department's new ambulance.
The newest vehicle in the English Consul Volunteer Fire Department's fleet is on the street.
Medic 375, a $300,000 2017 Horton International Terrastar ambulance, was placed in service March 11.
The ambulance replaces a 1997 ambulance that had its chassis replaced three times since the fire department received it, said Robert Bury Jr., the fire chief of the Baltimore Highlands department.
New technology and more modern features prompted the fire department to make the $302,000 investment for the vehicle. The fire department is paying about $30,000 and the county contributed about $50,000.
About $222,000 was loaned by the Baltimore County Volunteer Fireman's Association loan fund. The fire department must repay the loan over the next five years, said Frank March III, a former fire chief.
Bury said the loan will be repaid through fundraisers, such as its annual Mother's Day shrimp feast, summer carnivals and bingo nights.
The fire department spent an additional $8,000 to $10,000 to buy new equipment for the vehicle, such as hand tools for forcible entry, Bury said.
Planning to purchase the vehicle started more than three years ago, Bury said, adding it was a challenge for the department to meet today's needs but also plan for beyond.
"It's a lengthy, lengthy process when you're building a unit for the future," he said. "One thing you don't want to do is build a unit for your needs right now because tomorrow it will be different."
Features of the ambulance include an air suspension system that will lower the back of the truck and an automatic stretcher system, to make it easier for emergency responders to load patients. There is also cold and heated storage for medication, a secured storage box, improved lighting inside and outside the vehicle and air bags in the patient compartment, in addition to the front.
"The old one was outdated, Bury said. "The safety features that are in today's modern vehicles just weren't there."
The fire department projects the ambulance will respond to 2,500 calls a year, nearly triple the 898 calls the fire department did in 2015. Figures from 2016 were not immediately available.
There have been 374 medic calls this year.
The fire department hired two full-time staffers in June 2016 solely for the ambulance, to complement the department's volunteer membership, which is about 100.
"A volunteer service can't really provide that," March said. "I don't care how great you are or anything, it is so much demand to do that for EMS service, we had to make the decision that it was better for us to try to get the paid people to help us out and help the citizens of Baltimore County."
The full-time staffing, which is reimbursed by Baltimore County, allows the ambulance to be staffed daily from 7 a.m. to midnight. As a result, there has been higher demand for ambulance service.
"We see a difference every day," Bury said. "We used to answer maybe three to four calls, now it's 10 to 15 calls a day."
The fire department has seven vehicles in its fleet — two engines, a smaller truck to fight brush fires, two utility trucks and a bus. The next upgrade the fire department anticipates is one of its engines, which dates to 1993. Replacement costs are estimated at 500,000 to $600,000, March said.