IDAHO FALLS — It’s been more than 20 years since the Idaho Falls Fire Department introduced a full-time staffed EMS vehicle. On Wednesday, at Idaho Falls Fire Station 1 several employees participated in a ceremonial cleaning of Ambulance 6 as it was put into service.
Afterwards, the team pushed the vehicle into the station bay from which it will respond to calls.
“This is an exciting day for us,” Idaho Falls Fire Department Chief Dave Hanneman told EastIdahoNews.com. “This ambulance and its crew will work out of Station 1, but will take calls from throughout the city.”
IFFD has twelve ambulances, six of those are now staffed in Idaho Falls with an additional ambulance staffed in the Swan Valley area. A full-time staffed ambulance is a vehicle which is staffed by a paramedic crew 24/7. Previously the department only had five full-time vehicles, but earlier this year the department hired four new recruits to staff the new vehicle.
Hanneman said it was important for the department to expand its full-time ambulance fleet. In 2015, the fire department ran out of staffed ambulances 476 times, meaning dually trained firefighters were called off their fire engine to staff a reserve ambulance.
“That puts us in a difficult situation — we are risking the chance of having one less engine respond to a fire,” Hanneman said.
EMS Chief Eric Day tells EastIdahoNews.com there was a portion of those 476 incidents where there was no longer a crew or ambulance available to take the call.
Hanneman said he expects Ambulance 6 will absorb about 300 of the nearly 500 would be unavailable ambulance incidents that were expected to occur this year.
The fire department is the sole EMS provider for Bonneville County, serving more than 107,000 residents in seven towns, not including EMS contracts to cover the northern part of Bingham County and southern part of Jefferson County. The fire department also responds to calls on major roads like Interstate 15, U.S. highways 20, 26 and 91, and state highways 31 and 43.
“The population we cover has grown significantly in the last few years,” Hanneman said. “It’s important that the fire department grows with it so we can provide the services the community needs.”
“Since Fire Chief Dave Hanneman became part of the city team in 2014, he has transformed the department,” Idaho Falls Mayor Casper told EastIdahoNews.com. “New positions were created, training was increased, additional ambulances were added, service contracts were fine-tuned and the building of Fire Station 1 is well underway. The collection rate for ambulance service went up from 52 percent to 79 percent in two years, and budget projections for FYI 2016/2017 are coming in under budget by $54,000.”
Casper went on to speak personally about Hanneman.
“Chief Hanneman’s calm disposition, mental fortitude, attention to detail and leadership has taken the department to an entirely different level,” she said. “I’m honored to work with him, and I have no doubt that under his leadership we will continue to see great things come out of the department including the men and women who serve it.”
Bruce Mason, Teton Valley News
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Julia Tellman, Teton Valley News