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Additional Ambulances Help Idaho County Firefighters

POCATELLO - Roughly two years since Bannock County voters approved an increase to the ambulance levy, Pocatello Fire Chief David Gates says the department is far better equipped to handle the city and the south county's needs, and the frequency with which the city is short of firefighters has dramatically declined.

An increase in the number of ambulances has also reduced the burden each vehicle must bear.

"It has distributed the call load nearly equally between three ambulances rather than running nearly 2,000 calls each with just two ambulances ," Gates said. "We also used our reserve ambulance 125 times (in 2012). During the time that we use a reserve ambulance , the city does not have a full fire fighting force to fight a structure fire."

The voter approval of an increase to the Bannock County Ambulance Levy came in November of 2011 and officials said at the time said it would have impact beginning in 2013. Gates said the Pocatello Fire Department, which is contracted to handle Bannock County fire and ambulance response , then received a $70,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Emergency Medical Services division.

That grant was to purchase a new ambulance, which cost the city nearly $120,000. As part of the terms to receive the grant, the city had to pay at least 25 percent of the vehicle's cost.

Another term was to take one of the city's old ambulances and donate it to another agency. In this case, Pocatello donated one of its three basic life support ambulances to the City of Inkom last spring. The Inkom Fire Department, a volunteer operation, also became certified to operate the ambulance.

But that only lasted a few months and by October of this year, Inkom had again contracted with Bannock County to provide that service. Gates says that means the ambulance went back into to Pocatello Fire Department for its use.

That ambulance, however , remains in Inkom to be used by certified volunteers there, a further boost for the Pocatello Fire Department, Gates said.

"It just gives us a transport ambulance that has the potential to get to the scene quicker and initiate transport sooner," he said.

The city now has three advanced life support ambulances, up from two when the levy increase was passed in 2011, and three basic life support ambulances, one stationed in Downey, one in Lava Hot Springs and the one now in Inkom.

In all three cities, those using the basic life support ambulances are providing services that the ambulance's name suggests, those that are not life threatening. In all cases, whether it be Downey, Lava Hot Springs or Inkom, should the incident be life threatening, an advanced life support ambulance is dispatched from Pocatello.

The increase in advanced life support ambulances coupled with the basic life support ambulance now stationed in Inkom, has translated to far fewer incidents where on-duty Pocatello Fire Fighters must leave their fire fighting duties behind to man a reserve ambulance.

Gates said the number of times the reserve ambulance has been used through November of this year is just 43, slightly less than one-third of usage in 2012.

While Pocatello's two existing advanced life support ambulances made nearly 2,000 calls each in 2012, none of the three that the city currently has have reached even 1,500 calls so far in 2013. Ambulance two has been out on fewer than 1,300 calls.



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