SHFAD’s final new vehicles hit the roads in Sweet Home

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District has taken delivery of the final two vehicles planned as bond purchases: a new brush rig for the battalion chiefs and a new four-wheel-drive ambulance.

They are the last vehicles planned as purchases under a six-year $1.575 million bond levy approved by voters in 2016.

The battalion chief’s rig cost about $100,000. The ambulance, a display model with 10,000 miles, cost about $200,000, a savings of about $40,000.

“I’m very happy with them,” said Battalion Chief Randy Whitfield. “I’m very proud of them. I think we’re pretty well set up now. It’s going to take care of what we need.”

The battalion chief’s rig replaces a 2001 model with a new 2018 Ford F550, he said. It has more water capacity, a better pump and more room. It’s also more reliable.

The vehicle has four-wheel drive and a good chassis, Whitfield said, and it’s “set up smart.”

“We run it hard,” Whitfield said of the unit. The battalion chief’s vehicle goes out on nearly every call and is the first to respond to an accident or fire.

“Here in Sweet Home, we still need water. We have to be prepared for several different things. It’s the first one to respond, the first one on the scene. It just gives us the versatility that we need and updates our situation.”

In addition to water and a pump, the vehicle carries extrication tools and rescue gear, such as all-purpose rope.

In May, an east wind blew through the area, Whitfield said. Residents were burning, and the wind blew sparks from the fire into arborvitae. He was able to extinguish the fire before the engine arrived.

The district will move the old battalion chief’s rig to Crawfordsville where it will replace a brush rig. That brush rig will move to Foster Station to replace another brush rig, which will be sold.

The new ambulance, which is also on a Ford F550 chassis, is the second purchased under the bond levy. It replaces an older, smaller four-wheel drive and box.

The new vehicle is the district’s second four-wheel drive ambulance. SHFAD also has two rear-wheel drive ambulances.

With that arrangement, “we will be set up very well for ambulances,” Whitfield said.

The ambulance was assembled by Horton, the oldest ambulance builder in the country, Whitfield said. The district has typically used Braun, but this was a better deal, and stretching dollars this way is something Fire Chief Dave Barringer has been good at doing.

The box is up-to-date, including an airbag system for medics as well as a restraint system that allows medics to move around the box while the ambulance is in motion.

The box is large enough to allow medics, including Whitfield, who stands 6 feet, 2 inches tall, to move around easily.

The district will sell the old four-wheel drive.

While vehicle and equipment purchases are complete, the district is moving forward with plans to remodel the Foster Station on 47th Avenue.

Plans for Foster are awaiting approval from an engineer, said Fire Chief Dave Barringer. The district will be able to seek bids and begin construction following that approval.

Barringer would like it to be complete by July, which depends on how long engineering approval takes.

“I think it’ll be a little quicker than that,” he said.

Following that project, the district is planning to remodel the living quarters at the Fire Hall, 1099 Long St., Barringer said. While the district would like to accomplish more, that is the last major priority for the bond.

The proposed new building with additional bays at the Fire Hall may not fit within the parameters of the bond, he said. The district is working in partnership with the Volunteer Firefighters Association to construct the building.

The percentages of the cost split have not been set yet, Barringer said. He believes the district will be able to use its operating budget to pay for its share of the project.