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New ambulance for Monte Fire unveiled

Steven Friederich | The Vidette  Fire Chief Corey Rux stands in front of the department's new ambulance.Buy Photo
Steven Friederich | The Vidette Fire Chief Corey Rux stands in front of the department's new ambulance.

MONTESANO —Montesano Fire Chief Corey Rux says it’s pure coincidence that the new colors on the inside and outside of the department’s new ambulance resemble the maroon and gray colors of the Bulldogs. But it’s a happy coincidence.

The Montesano Fire Department took possession of its brand-new ambulance in October. It was a demonstration order so the model came with the colors already pre-chosen, but it came with a discount and bunch of fancy LED lights that would’ve been out of the department’s price range, otherwise.

Final price on the 2014 ambulance was $182,000, which includes the tax.

The Montesano City Council approved the new ambulance back in September. The ambulance costs come out of an interfund loan, which will be paid back using the city’s ambulance utility funds over the next five years.

The city’s old ambulance was about 13 years old and had 207,000 miles on it. The chief says it needs a whole lot of repair work and was actually about to come off line just as the department got the new one.

“We were really lucky because we could have been down an ambulance waiting for this one,” Rux said.

Montesano Fire Medical Services Officer Rick Watkinson teamed up with Chief Rux and Ken Frafjord as well as a host of volunteers to figure out the best ambulances to buy. They’ve got two pretty full file folders of information relating to the sale — and did enough research that other fire agencies have called on Montesano to see what they discovered.

The big decision for Montesano was to go away from the typical Ford models. Watkinson said that the previous models are no longer manufactured with diesel engines. And, to give the ambulance a longer life, that’s the kind of engine they wanted.

Instead, they went with an International Terrastar, which did have a diesel engine and a bit heavier of a chasis. That should allow the ambulance to have a much longer lifespan, lasting about 18 years and 300,000 miles.

“It was a bit more for an upfront cost, but we think it will be worth it in the end,” Rux said. “We did a whole lot of research here. … We wanted to find a model that would last and maybe become our new standard for future models, as well.”

Watkinson said he even talked to a fire department in New Mexico, which has a large fleet of Terrastars, and got nothing but positive feedback. Before settling on the model, they checked out different models of ambulances in Thurston County and even in Cle Elum.

Fire District 5, which is in the process of buying their own ambulance, and a few other local fire agencies have stopped by to check it out and see the latest model.

The department received the ambulance in October and it took about a month to get it into service. It’s already been in use for a few weeks now.

“I was in the back and had to do a patient transfer to Seattle and it was the easiest, softest ride in an ambulance I’ve ever been in, even the patient commented on it,” Watkinson said.

Patient comfort played a factor in getting the ambulance. But the real deal was that the model came at a $25,000 discount because it already had about 7,000 miles on it since other departments had given it a test run.

“We were really lucky to get this great of a deal,” Rux said. “It would have taken 6 to 12 months to build a custom build for us.”

“And it’s scary how close we were to losing our other ambulance because of mechanical issues,” Watkinson adds.

“A lot of credit here goes to Kenny Frafjord for keeping these vehicles running so well,” Rux said. Frafjord is the city mechanic.

Montesano has two other ambulances, a 2006 model with more than 127,000 miles and a 2009 model with about 62,600 miles.