|Written by Jeff Wood|
|Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00|
The Verde Valley Fire District is now in the driver’s seat for rescue operations in remote locations.
At a board meeting Feb. 28 at Station 32 in Cornville, VVFD Fire Chief Nazih Hazime received the keys to a brand new all-terrain vehicle, intended to be used as an off-road ambulance, from Doug Longfellow, current vice president of the Verde Valley Fire Foundation.
Ken Bishop, clerk of the board and acting chairman, said the vehicle was a “benefit that will save lives and make a difference.”
Hazime praised the efforts of the foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to fundraising for the VVFD.
“The foundation’s passion for raising funds is very much appreciated by the district,” he said after receiving the keys.
The vehicle, an orange Kubota RTV900XT, was on display outside the meeting room.
The Kubota features four-wheel drive, low-geared diesel engine and a break retarder which will allow emergency personnel to reach accident victims in remote areas more quickly, more safely and at a lower cost than the methods currently available.
The vehicle will be parked at Station 31 in Cottonwood, but it will be available to all local fire agencies. The vehicle still needs two pieces of equipment before the district can put it into service: an ambulance bed and a trailer.
Verde Valley Ambulance will cover the cost of an ambulance bed, which will carry one patient, an EMT and medical gear.
The district will cover the $1,500 cost of a trailer for the vehicle, which needs to be transported to the edge of wilderness areas because of its top speed of 25 mph.
Longfellow listed several past emergency situations in which the new vehicle could have been put into use to save time in reaching accident victims.
With the vehicle, VVFD could have reached victims more quickly after a hot air balloon crash on House Mountain, five to six airplane crashes, a woman falling off a rock in Haskell Springs and an all-terrain vehicle accident at the Hayfield Draw Off-Highway Vehicle area, Longfellow said.
VVFD had to strip emergency vehicles to navigate rough terrain, or hike in and hike out with the victims on a stretcher.
In the case of the Hayfield Draw accident, EMTs hitched a ride on an ATV, holding their medic boxes, in order to reach the victim as quickly as possible, said Robert Church, foundation board member.
Helicopter transport is an alternative method to reach an accident victim, but it is costly and requires special equipment and personnel.
It is better suited for critical emergencies, while an off-road ambulance works best for accidents and rescues where the victims have less severe injuries.
Other uses for the vehicle may include medical emergencies such as heart attacks or other injuries, horseback riding accidents or flood victims, Hazime said.
Longfellow said events at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds, parades or other events with large crowds, where a small vehicle could more easily pass, might be able to get a victim to an ambulance more quickly.
The Hayfield Draw accident, according to a foundation press release, spurred the creation of the foundation two years ago, with the purpose of raising funds to purchase an off-road ambulance for the department.
The Verde Valley Fire Foundation was originally founded as The Verde Valley Fire District Charities. Longfellow said the organization dropped “charities” from its name in January after recent news reports of charities, particularly Phoenix charities, using monies to pay for members’ salaries, rather than putting them toward causes.
Foundation treasurer Steve Auster said the vehicle cost $10,500, and that the foundation’s three major fundraisers — car wash, Christmas tree sales and golf tournament — generated the money to purchase it.
The foundation has also donated $500 worth of bicycle helmets and children’s car seats to the district.
The foundation chooses items for funding at the prompting of the district.
“We go to the fire distract and ask them what they need,” Auster said.
The foundation is currently considering making a bariatric — or heavy-duty — gurney the goal of its next fundraising drive.
The gurney would “pick up injured or sick people who wouldn’t fit on a normal gurney,” Longfellow said.
The gurney would be used for patients with a body weight between 600 and 800 pounds. It features expandable sides, and come with ramps and a winch for transport of a patient into an ambulance. The foundation estimates the cost of the gurney to be between $7,000 and $12,000.
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