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Solon Fire Dept.’s new EMS truck has already gotten a workout

The Tri-Township (Solon) Fire Department recently put into service this 2019 Ford F-350 medical response truck. The $85,000 unit replaces a 2004 Ford Excursion, which is being repurposed into a command vehicle for the 35-member all-volunteer department. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

SOLON- The Tri-Township (Solon) Fire Department’s fleet expanded recently with the addition of a new medical response truck.
Solon 139, a 2019 Ford F-350 pickup with modular service body, entered service roughly one month ago, and has already gotten a workout as EMS (Emergency Medical Services) runs make up the majority of the calls for service for the 35-member department.
“It’s been nice with the call volume,” Captain Rick Childs said, noting at least 85 percent of the all-volunteer departments calls for service are medical emergencies.
The new truck replaces a 2004 Ford Excursion SUV, which is being repurposed into a command vehicle for use by the Incident Commander at fires and motor vehicle accidents. Capt. Childs noted the Excursion offered a level of mobility, such as getting down trails, navigating city streets, narrow driveways and into other difficult-to-access locations.
The new vehicle offers the same capability.
“We kept our medical vehicle versatile where we can move more (men and equipment) in and out, but continue to keep the rescue (Solon’s larger and heavier rescue truck) on the road.” The truck is also able to pull trailers, meaning it can bring the department’s rescue boat if needed. “It works out really nice for us,” the captain said.
The four-door cab provides space for four medically trained firefighters to respond while the modular service body has ample space for their equipment. The service body is able to be removed from the bed of the truck and can be easily remounted on another chassis if needed. The medical equipment is located on the passenger side, which keeps the responders out of traffic. The department operates at the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) level of emergency care and provides Basic Life Support ahead of the arrival of Johnson County Ambulance Service paramedics. Less-used equipment, such as water and ice rescue gear, is stored on the driver’s side. Additional equipment is carried on the rescue truck, but when time is of the essence, the new, smaller truck can get into the scene quickly and begin the operation.
The truck is equipped with the latest in LED warning lights and has reflective graphics including red and yellow chevrons on the back as well as the edges of the compartment doors in an effort to make the bright yellow and white truck as visible to motorists as possible. “It’s lit-up well at night, and in the daytime so you can see it good going down the road,” Childs said.
Lynch Ford in Mount Vernon provided the truck while That’s My Truck in Des Moines sold and installed the SpaceKap™ service body, and Banacom Signs in Hiawatha installed the lettering and striping. All totaled the department spent $85,000 on the vehicle, which members feel is money well spent. “It’s ergonomically good for our people, you’re not bending over a lot, the equipment is at waist-level, or just above,” Childs said. A slide-out tray in the back holds more equipment, such as a long spinal immobilization (“backboard”) board.
“We designed it so there’s the potential to grow (with additional equipment),” Childs added. “We always build trucks, it seems, for room (for tools and equipment), and we end up filling them.” The modular body also proved to be more economical than a conventional service body, or a custom-built body, which saves the taxpayers of the city and fire district money.
“With the new station coming up, we saved some money that way,” Childs said. “It helps the taxpayer out, and instead of spending a lot of money, we’re trying to push a lot into the station.”
The previous medical truck is being converted into a command vehicle. Although it is parked behind the station due to no open bays in the crowded building, it will still perform a vital role for the firefighters.
Traditionally, a fire department officer (Lt., Capt., Chief) sits in the right-front seat of the Engine on the way to an incident, and sets up their command post at the scene. Having a dedicated command vehicle gets the Incident Commander off the Engine and into a setting where they will have space to work. “We’re going to adapt the computer (in the vehicle) so they can run the scene in a controlled environment. It’s going to be nice. It’s a way of pulling yourself away from operations,” Childs added, “Because if you don’t, you’re going to get mixed up in the middle of the operations.”
The truck, renumbered to Solon 137, will also function in a support role for transporting additional firefighters, and can pull trailers as well for the boat or the Ranger UTV (Utility Task Vehicle).
New 139 has already been earning its keep, Childs said. “It’s been out quite a bit already, and as Chief (Bob) Siddell said, our call volume is only going to keep going up every year. It’s really surpassing, every year, by considerable numbers. It’s not just a few 10, 20, it’s considerably more.”