Annapolis Fire Department's newest ambulance took to the streets on Monday thanks to the Eastport Volunteer Fire Company.
"This unit also gives us some much needed added depth in our medic unit fleet. Our medic units are very busy and are run hard," Annapolis Fire Chief David Stokes said. "The vehicles themselves are quite complex and the electronic medical gear installed in them is also very sophisticated. As a result, they require more maintenance and experience comparatively more ‘down’ time than our fire apparatus.”
The organization acquired the 2003 International Navistar for free from a Maryland county after the vehicle was declared surplus in October. The donating county asked to remain anonymous, Eastport officials said. Fire company president Al Kirchner said he first saw the ambulance in February when he was alerted that it might become available.
"We went to look it over right away and were very impressed," Kirchner said. "The body was in pretty good shape, and it appeared to be in excellent mechanical condition."
For the next nine months, Kirchner said he watched and waited for the unit to officially be declared surplus. He said he wanted to make sure Annapolis was first in line to claim it.
Then, he spent approximately $20,000 in donations and state grant funds to refinish, repaint and upgrade the ambulance.
Stokes even offered to let Kirchner and his group use the fire department repair shop since it was “in the interest of the city to help get this unit in service as soon as possible, given the needs of the city’s ambulance fleet.”
Over the past five years, the Eastport Volunteer Fire Company has bought more than $650,000 worth of equipment for use by Annapolis firefighters. In 2007, they bought a new pumper, in 2010 they bought a 100-foot ladder truck and in 2012 they took delivery of a four-wheel drive Chevrolet utility unit.
Now that Ambulance 362 is ready, it will initially serve as a back up for Paramedic Unit PM-36, a city-owned unit in the Eastport station. Firefighters from the station may also staff the new ambulance if PM-36 is already out responding to another call.
"We want this ambulance to manned by volunteers as a basic life support," Kirchner said. "That would free up the paramedic units for the real stuff."
Basic life support is a step above CPR, and Kirchner said his group provides training to interested volunteers for free.
He is actively recruiting people to staff the new ambulance. Anyone interested should call 410-263-9494 or visit the Eastport Volunteer Fire Company at 914 Bay Ridge Ave.