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City of West Columbia approves new medical truck & paramedic for fire department

West Columbia, SC (Sydney Pendrick) The West Columbia Fire Department is adding a squad truck for emergency medical calls in hopes of providing better service to the citizens at a reduced cost to the city. West Columbia FD averages 1,800 - 1,900 calls a year with over 60% of these being medical in nature, according to Chief Chris Smith. Although the fire department does not transport patients when they are asked to respond to medical emergencies, they do provide invaluable services until a Lexington County ambulance arrives.

The fire department has a large tower truck, a type of apparatus designed to reach high places, and a fire engines that have been responding to these calls. These pieces of equipment are very expensive to buy, staff, maintain, and operate. Their Engine 2 is currently the busiest fire truck in Lexington County. In 2016, the truck responded to 1255 incidents and their responses increased to 1530 in 2017. Many of those calls were medical first response calls.

Trucks like Engine 2 only get two to four miles per gallon and it has required substantial maintenance this year because of the wear and tear from all of the calls the fire department receives. Their tower truck responded to 384 incidents in 2017 and only gets two miles per gallon. This truck catches the department’s secondary calls, or if it is a cardiac arrest call, they respond with Engine 2 as well. Eventually, the chief realized that all the medical calls were taking a toll on the department financially, physically, and mentally. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 budget process, Chief Smith began looking for a solution to this problem. After consulting with his staff and the town’s administration, Chief Smith felt that the solution would be to add a specially-equipped squad truck that would be staffed by a trained paramedic and a firefighter first responder.

In the city council meeting held on June 18th, the West Columbia FD received approval to purchase and staff this squad truck. This new squad truck will get ten to twelve miles per gallon and will have one paramedic and one firefighter first responder per shift for each of the department's three shifts. Chief Smith says they are hoping that, with a smaller vehicle, they can respond more quickly to these calls than they do with the engine and tower trucks. “We hope to see an increase in the services we are providing since we are getting a paramedic. This is far more advanced medical attention,” explained Chief Smith. West Columbia FD's average response time is five minutes or less and the Lexington County EMS response time is usually averaging eleven minutes. “Having a paramedic six minutes sooner on our squad truck could mean life or death for a victim,” Chief Smith said.

Adding this vehicle will be beneficial for the fire department and all the citizens of West Columbia and the surrounding areas. Engine 2 will still respond with the squad truck if needed, and the department will have the tower truck and its other trucks ready in reserve if another call is received. “With the squad truck, it will extend the lives on all our vehicles. A lot of torque and twisting was really hurting the frame of the trucks and now having this smaller vehicle will be great,” said Chief Smith. The squad truck will be purchased in July with hopes to have it staffed and running by January 1st of next year.

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