The Grand Junction Fire Department has been awarded $247,027 through the Colorado EMTS Provider Grant to replace one of the eight ambulances currently in the fleet. On any given day, the GJFD ambulances serve the EMS, medical transport, long distance transport, and event standby needs of just under 650 square miles. With 12,099 calls for EMS service last year alone, the fleet as a whole gets a lot of wear and tear.
Normally, a city vehicle’s life expectancy is 10 years and 120,000 miles. With EMS calls up 35% over the last five years, GJFD is seeing ambulances’ life expectancies quickly diminish. Most of the ambulances in the GJFD fleet are less than seven years old and have a median of 117,790 miles on them. In the last fiscal year, City tax revenues were down and the department’s operating budget decreased by 9%, so budgeting for a new ambulance in regularly allotted funds just wasn’t an option this year.
EMS Chief Sheldon Kier said, “This year we had to get creative and find other sources of income to provide the care our community deserves. Fortunately, the City did have matching funds to help leverage the full power of this grant.” Since January of this year, GJFD ambulances have been in the shop 58 different times, often for costly repairs like transmission maintenance and replacement. “It’s always concerning when we have no backup ambulances, or we have to borrow ambulances from other departments because the normal fleet is in the shop for unexpected repairs. At the end of the day these vehicles are wearing out much faster than we expected. Our life expectancy model can’t keep up with how fast our call volume is increasing.”
In the year to come, the Grand Junction Fire Department is looking to replace two more ambulances. The new ambulances that the department is considering are larger, more rugged, and have a more powerful chassis to sustain the level of activity that the current vehicles are experiencing. By upgrading to the heavier-duty vehicles, GJFD hopes to extend the lifetime of the vehicles and avoid costly repairs currently seen by the fleet.
For more information on the grant or GJFD ambulances, contact the Community Outreach Office at GJFirePIO@gjcity.org.