The Watertown Fire Department will be getting a new ambulance, which will help with the increasing numbers of medical calls to which paramedics respond.
On Tuesday night, the Town Council unanimously approved the borrowing of $355,00 to pay for the purchase of a new ambulance. It will be paid off over five years with a total expected cost, including interest, of $402,925.
The current ambulance, a 2016 GMC, has about 42,000 miles on it and will be kept as in reserve after the new one is delivered, said Fire Chief Bob Quinn. He said there is a lead time of about 8 months after ordering an ambulance.
The ambulance had been getting more and more use over the past few years, Quinn said.
“The Watertown Fire Department ambulance had moderate to heavy call volumes,” Quinn said. “Medical runs increased steadily over the last five years.”
The number of ambulance runs went from 3,082 in 2016 to 3,281 in 2019, Quinn said. The total call volume for the WFD as 4,745 in 2016 and 6,170 in 2019.
Some of the change was due to properly classifying some calls, Quinn said, but there are other reasons for the increase.
“The volume of calls is going up. We have an increasing population, an aging population, and a lot of motor vehicle accidents due to the volume of traffic in town,” Quinn said.
Also, in 2017 the Watertown Fire Department began offering Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedic service, Quinn said. This increased the number of calls because the Town used to contract out those calls to a private ambulance company.
COVID-19 did not add to the volume of calls, Quinn said, in fact, he said at first it cut down on the number of runs made by the ambulance.
“During early part of COVID the call volume in general was reduced, because everyone was staying home. All the calls we went on were COVID related: people with COVID symptoms, COVID illness,” Quinn said. “Since the opening up, in June, of the economy in the state and town, more people are back out, more people are at work, and the volume is creeping up. We are doing the same number of calls as in mid-March.”
Councilor Angeline Kounelis asked if the old ambulance would be used as a second ambulance. Quinn said the Fire Department currently is not able to man two ambulances. It used to run a second one out of Station 2, in the East End of Town. However, due to COVID restrictions firefighters can no longer share a room at night so staffing has been reduced. There is not room at the other two stations to house an ambulance, he added.
The second ambulance will be used when the new one is out of service for maintenance or repair, Quinn said, and could be used for demonstrations and events, such as the Town’s upcoming flu clinics (which will be held outside) and at the Faire on the Square.