City’s ambulance fleet slowly returning to health

Having one ambulance with a problematic motor is tough.

It was double tough when the Grand Junction Fire Department had two defective ambulances in its eight-vehicle fleet.

In 2006, the department purchased three Ford ambulances with 6.0-liter engines. As soon as their odometers hit 35,000 miles, two of the ambulances started having trouble.

Other municipalities had the same problem, and Ford Motor Co. settled a lawsuit, which included Grand Junction as a complainant, early last fall. As a result, the city received extended warranties on the problem vehicles and got money for certain repairs.

Repairs have been frequent since the ambulances arrived. The two problem vehicles were in the repair shop a total of 175 days in 2008, according to John Howard, Grand Junction Emergency Medical Services Division chief. Routine maintenance on other ambulances was backed up as the department waited up to a month for the 2006 models to get out of the shop.

“On several occasions we had four ambulances in the shop at once,” Howard said. “We ended up leasing an ambulance for eight months.”

Fire Chief Ken Watkins said Ford has a long history as a quality provider in the ambulance sector. But the bad motors led the city to apply for a state emergency medical service grant to replace the bodies of the two 2006 Fords. The department received the $102,527 grant and will put it toward the $201,982 needed to rebuild the ambulances. The Grand Junction City Council approved the expenditure Monday.

Council members also approved the purchase of another ambulance for $157,770, funded by the city with money reserved since 1994. The new ambulance will be received in about eight months and will replace a 16-year-old ambulance in the city’s fleet.

Howard is relieved to know new and improved ambulances are headed back to his fleet.

“They were in the shop constantly,” he said of the two being rebuilt.


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