HONOLULU (KHON2) — Flames leave behind a charred Hawaii Island ambulance. On the Big Island, Emergency Medical Services falls under the Fire Department. The Fire Chief told KHON2, it started while an ambulance from the Kailua station was transporting a patient to the hospital.
“The engine started smoking, and they pulled over. And quickly, the engine caught on fire,” said Chief Kazuo Todd of the Hawaii Fire Department. “Luckily, they were able to extricate the patient and grab their equipment and move it off the rig.”
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Chief Todd said, a fire truck came from Captain Cook too put out the fire while another ambulance took the patient to the hospital. No injuries were reported.
“It’s always a concern when we see an ambulance catches fire or any public safety vehicle catch fire,” said Bobby Lee, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association President.
It’s not the age of the ambulances that’s the issue, with many of them fairly new according to Chief Todd. Instead, it’s the wear and tear of running 24 hours a day and having 16 ambulances cover over 4,000 miles across the island. An average Big Island ambulance is racking up to 90,000 miles a year. In the busier areas, it can add up to 30,000 miles in three years.
“It’s an average turnover of three to five years before these ambulances are hitting their peak life and need to be replaced. It really means that we need to replace about four ambulances a year or so,” Todd said.
The state funds county EMS departments; and for the Big Island, the Hawaii Fire Department said it receives critical funding for its replacement ambulances.
Hawaii County was able to receive five new ambulances last year, and the County is hoping for more.
“If we’re able to secure these four new ambulances over the next two fiscal years, we’ll be in this good place to ensure that our ambulances are running optimally and servicing our community as needed,” said Holeka Goro Inaba, Hawaii County Council Vice Chair.
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The Hawaii Fire Chief said the department has a great replacement program, and it’s consistently purchasing and replacing ambulances to upkeep its fleet.