The bigger the vehicle, the more the sky-rocketing gas prices affect budgets.
To combat the rising cost of fuel without compromising the service of the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department, Chief Chris James said it is going to begin using smaller vehicles for first-responder calls.
Starting March 1, James has put a smaller truck, called Rescue 1, into service full time out of Station 6 on Richmond Hill Road. The truck, roughly the size of an ambulance, is used to respond to all quick-response calls within Station 6 jurisdiction.
Soon, Rescue 1 will move to Station 13 because it is the station that receives the most first-responder calls. Station 13 includes parts of Bobby Jones Expressway, Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge Road, among others.
The smaller truck not only saves money on gas, but also saves wear and tear on the larger trucks, which will “have a major impact on our budget,” James said.
The truck is staffed by either two emergency medical technicians, or an EMT and a paramedic. Every firefighter who has joined the department since consolidation has been trained as an EMT.
Because it is an extra vehicle, Rescue 1 brings the on-duty total staff to 72, instead of 70. James said the addition of staff members is still cheaper than relying on the bigger trucks.
For the time being, the staff on the truck is rotated. There is usually one person from Station 6 who knows the area, and another pulled from another station, firefighter Robert McQuinn said.
McQuinn said the truck is used often as backup in extrications in and outside the Station 6 zone during large car accidents. It is equipped with the Jaws of Life, a generator and tripod lights.
“This vehicle is very useful for extractions,” McQuinn said. “The sooner we can get people out, the better.”
Inside, the truck is set up like an ambulance with a stretcher and basic life support supplies. The radio is also connected to area hospitals.
Rescue 1 is also used to take injured firefighters to hospitals if it is closer than responding ambulances, James said, and can be called to structure fires if needed.
McQuinn said they will also take residents if the ambulance is far enough out they think it will affect a person’s health.
There is another truck, Rescue 2, which is being used for training. It will also go into a station after this year’s training is complete.
In addition to Rescue 1 and 2, James is planning on using some of the department’s red Ford Expeditions as quick-response vehicles.
Each of these quick-response vehicles will require extra staffing, so James said he has to wait until the more than 30 recruits complete their training and join the ranks this summer.