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Fire District 5 orders new ambulances; asst fire chief retires

Two spanking-new, medium-duty ambulances are officially on order for Grays Harbor Fire District No. 5.

The two identical rigs will come at a total cost of $415,315,000 to the district, with the first one being delivered late this year and the second coming about six months later — some time next summer.

The fire district’s board of commissioners opened and approved the lone bid for the rigs at its June 5 meeting. That bid came from PSS of Salt Lake City, a company that specializes in sales and servicing of Horton brand emergency vehicles, the same company from which the Montesano Fire Department purchased its newest medium-duty ambulance.

As of now, the district has $360,000 to spend on the new rigs, that money being approved overwhelmingly by district voters in a form of a bond measure last November. The district will have to cover the difference of $55,315 from it’s 2015 budget, something District 5 Fire Chief Dan Prater said should not be a problem since the board recently retired some outstanding debt early, saving the district about $5,000 a month in principal and interest payments.

Prater said the district will bank those monthly savings to pay the balance of the new ambulances. Since it will take a little while to build up to $55,000, the district will take delivery of its first new rig “some time in November or December,” according to Prater, with the second one likely being delivered in July of 2015, when the district should have the rest of the balance banked.

“We paid off the debt the district was in years ago,” said Prater. “We paid it off early and we’ll set aside some of that savings each month. The board will pay off the rest ($55,135) in next year’s budget … I’m confident of that.”

Once mired in financial woes, the district will also be realizing some savings in its payroll due to the recent retirement of Assistant Fire Chief Brad Peckham, who was chief of the district prior to Prater coming on board.

Prater said the district will now eliminate the assistant chief position, opting instead to eventually promoting one of the current captains to the newly created role of “battalion chief.” That job will be in charge of the training, special operations and also serve as the district’s medical safety officer. Prater said that restructuring will save the district about $3,300 per month.

Prater said Peckham had to retire due to medical reasons. The assistant chief was “hurt on the job” back in May of 2012, when he “blew out his knee” in something of a freak accident.

“The doctors couldn’t sign him off when they did his evaluation for the Department of Labor & Industries,” Prater said, noting that Peckham for years was one of the movers and shakers for getting emergency medical services up to speed in the East County.

“He’s the guy who basically started emergency medical care in East Grays Harbor,” Prater said of Peckham, who officially retired last Friday.