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Penny Wise and Pound Foolish – A Commentary

Only the Taxpayers Are Being Fooled on This One

The Braun Ambulance company (a manufacturer) has this photo of Volusia County, Florida's new rigs on their Facebook page:

Yes, those are fire engine-ambulances. They have 500gpm pumps and 300-gallon tanks. Oh, and CAFS, of course. Because what would a "forward thinking" fire department Public Protection Fire Service be without CAFS. The "forward thinking" quote is from the company rep defending these apparatus from Facebook commenters who aren't so easily duped as the public whose services are being being cut in half. Like any good stooge, he says the citizens will face no reduction in service.

This is simply not true. That the citizens will receive the same level of service is not true. That the apparatus are just as capable as any other ambulance or Class A pumper is not true. That these monstrosities show some special attention to the future is not true. These are nothing but gimmicks used by the penny-wise and pound foolish administrators of a local government abdicating its duty to provide for the public safety. I suppose it is true that these apparatus make for a more efficient use of resources than having separate ambulances and pumpers. There will be no lazy parasitic firemen lounging around waiting for a fire in this Public Protection department. There will also be no firefighters making aggressive and fast interior attacks (300 gallons is a lot less water than I have to work with on my quint!) or addressing your rescue or fire needs when your neighbor has a sniffle. Of course, we've recently been told that forward-thinking fire people shouldn't be making interior attacks anyway, so I guess this might be fine.

Don't get me wrong about EMS. I am 100% in favor of fire-based EMS and believe that we need to step up our EMS provision so it's as important as firefighting. But that means that I believe we should raise both to a level of excellence, not eliminate any semblance of respect for the exigencies of both. If fire protection matters and EMS matters then these apparatus represent a monstrous falsehood perpetrated against a public that is not getting what it thinks it is paying for.

And don't get me wrong about this question either: Why do we have fire services?

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Braun Ambulance Co. WEBSITE.
Volusia County Fire Services WEBSITE.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I like the idea of these trucks for my department. With that being said, let’s break down exactly what I mean…

    “I like the idea of these trucks”: From the pictures I’ve seen, and the stats that the company has provided, I like these trucks, but after seeing/touching/driving/using, I may change that opinion.

    Now, the second part of my statement. “…for my department”: I work at a small combination department. We have two full-time firefighter/paramedics on-duty at a time for the whole department, not at each station, the WHOLE department. We are backed up by paid-on-call staff, but the turn out can vary wildly on how many people we will get.

    This vehicle would allow us the flexibility to be out in our service area more often, and be able to respond to either a fire or a medical and have the tools to go to work. I will also allow that this is no perfect solution, that there will be some definite draw-backs, and that it is a manufacturer capitalizing on idea that will potentially hurt service in some areas. But for ME, and MY area, it would allow us to provide better service than we are currently able to do.

    Just my $0.02…


    Interesting idea …if you’re only going to take your new “fire trucks” to small fires that can be handled by 2 FFs with 300 gallons of water and small fire flows…and no supply line….and missing whatever tools are being sacrificed to make room for the EMS end of the rig.  Other than those little sacrifices…yeah, absolutely no reduction in service or capabilities.

  • Mccord911

    Wow Geezer;
    I think you are way off base on this one !!!!   Seems like a great idea to me……These Fire/Amb could be a first attack unit in a fire situation and still function as an ambulance. Maybe if we lived in a world where money was no object we could all have the big red trucks with the bells and whistles and ambulances, but that is just not the case anymore.

    Just my opinion

    • CHAOS

      OK…first attack….and then when the remaining “only” fire rigs show up and block in ur soon-to-be ambulance with supply lines, other trucks, etc…you now get a stationary medical unit.  Unless you have a plan for getting the Engulances in close enough for initial attack with their limited hose load and then getting the rest of the arriving FD units to park in a way to leave an escape route for the Engulance while still getting close enough to act like normal fire trucks stretching hose lines, using aerial devices, etc.
      Why not add a “criminal containment area” and lump PD services into the same rig?  Imagine the increased efficiency.
      I know there have been other attempts at Transport-Capable Engines over the years, but I don’t recall any big lines waiting for more of those bastardo rigs once FDs got a taste of them.
      Just my dumb ol’ opinion, too.

      • Joe Paczkowski

        Boxed in? Heck, if the ambuline arrives first and deploys lines, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to run the supply line TO the ambuline instead of deploying additional lines simply to replace the ambuline?

        So, now to use the ambuline for it’s primary purpose (emergency medical care), you have to deploy an additional line, make sure who ever is operating the line gets the new one, and then shut it down and disconnect the deployed line prior to transporting. Oh, and still do everything else that needs to be done at a fire.

    • Patrick

      Agree with you Mccord.  If you aren’t able to put out the fire with 300 gallons of water, you need multiple units.  The quick attack pumper is very successful where it’s been used as a part of a larger fire suppression scheme.

  • Joe Paczkowski

    So, what happens when a rescue is made AT a fire? Does that mean now that an entire engine isn’t available for use at a fire, especially early on if resources are scarce?

    How is parking at the local hospitals going to work, especially when multiple ambulines (or engulances) are offloading at the same time?

    How does the ride and noise level in the back going to compare to a traditional ambulance?

    Is the ambuline higher off the ground than an ambulance? What will this mean for loading patients and increased wear and tear on the backs of the EMTs and paramedics?

    With the pump panel between the driver and the patient compartment, does this mean that everything has to go through an internal phone system? If so, how will that affect EMS operations?

    Will using engines as ambulances increase the millage, especially if they have to be used for any emergent CCTs or transport to distant specialty centers (I don’t know the capabilities of the hospitals in that area)?

    Especially if the ambulance is used to transport firefighters after a fire because its there, is there a risk of contamination with smoke and other gases that can be carcinogenic or exasperate a reactive airway disease? What does this mean for patients transported in the period after a fire, and for how long after that fire?

  • S_feeheley

    I have two thoughts here…and forgive me as I work for a dept that can afford both he money and staffing repeated to these questions. of these

    A. Two firefighters one an engine company bothers me. Is 1 firefighter inside putting fire out safe? And can one firefighter effectively make a rescue or mutilate rescues by himself?

    B. what happens when the unit is broken/ OOS? You lose not only a frontline pumper but also an ambulance/ transport unit.

  • Rn6070

    If your not going to do it right, don’t do it at all

  • Bigjim

    The latest response info on the county web site was for 2005.  Based on those numbers, which are now certainly higher, there were 12,869 EMS calls vs. 2,846 fire and other calls. Based on their needs (the county) maybe these vehicles make sense.  It’s more likely they could come upon a fire while on the road in one of these, just because they are on the road more often.  The 300 gallon water tank is the minimum size required for a Class A pumper so no argument there. (Thats means that there may be pumpers in service with only 300 gallon tanks.)  I also didn’t see anything that indicated the FD was converting to these things 100% and not sending regular pumpers to calls. How many times have you read about that ambulance crew returning from a call in the middle of the night and finding a fire on the way back to quarters?  It happens. With some CAFS maybe they can do some good.  Maybe not. But I would think the crew would be able to make that decision. I don’t even like ambulances (cooties) but until the county runs them a while, who knows, they may be just what they need.

  • Anonymous

    We have mistaken fire-fighting and technical rescue operations with that of the provision of professional emergency medical care and transportation.  There is growing divide between the initial education, certification, and operational requirements for paramedics and fire-fighters.  To be more precise, these are simply becoming two tracks of professions as opposed to one.  SOmeone put the finger in the dike of a leaking fire service and instituted paramedics on board engine companies. Then they started to add plaster of paris in the cracks in the way of grabbing a few transport contracts to help fill the bank.   Now they try to add an place to put a cot on a fire-truck.  I dont know about you, but I dont want the fire truck I helped pay for taken out of service for fires to bring drunks to the hospital.  The true fix is a system where EMS is treated as a service and not a collateral duty.  

  • John-crocker

    I can see where some situations it would work but the fuel that thing must use, I would think would outweigh the savings projected.  Also, when the state(referencing NC) does its periodical ambulance inspection that sanctions that unit to run, if it fails inspection on the ambulance end then technically that would shut down the whole vehicles operation. Puts it out of service until reinspection.  So that would halt two operations and not just one.   I must add, I do see where these could be a benefit to a fire service in conjunction with regular ambulance services.  Such as, triage for mass casuality, since Fire is generally incharge on large incidents, or as rehab for firefighters on fire scenes.

    • Buzzlytyear

      Thats when you take the box off and put a trash truck container on the back…Common let’s be “forward thinking” people!

  • Flwfg

    With the advancements of fire protection and suppression over the years, Ambulances / rescues have become the FD’s most visible vehicle, therefore it’s best PR tool, especially when it comes to budget time. I strongly believe in EMS being a separate third entity of Public Safety, Fire Service can compliment EMS with , 1st responder, extrication, man power and the like, but EMS should remain it’s own entity. Didn’t we try combining Fire with Law Enforcement decades ago… IT DIDN’T WORK….I like Manatee County (FL) (the 1st owned and operated local county government set up back in 1971), and it has proven to work well over all these years. Many of Manatee EMS units are also housed in the various district fire stations within the county also, renting space by the county…There are also automatic dual responses IE: vehicle crashes and any structure fire.

  • Fiocchi45acp

    Ok Mccord911, how do you plan to transport the burn victim or the downed FireFighter with these apparatus? Do you plan to let the victim die or the structure burn down? You will have to choose, You can’t do both with these units.

  • Flash

    Oh, great.  Inasmuch as we run EMS calls 3 – 4 times as much as fire calls, we will wear out these puppies in 3 – 4 years.  The pump will hardly be used, then we have to pony up for a new dog & pony show!  That is one reason that I don’t like a quint.  We don’t get full dollar value for the miles we put on them.  Why not just put a couple of PW cans on your next ambulance?  The bean counters will think you are a genius!

  • AMS 01

    I think you’re right on target… look into the history of the Volusia County public safety… they have dedicated EMS already, so why is their fire department investing in apparatus which can transport  EMS patients and yet barely has the tools to effectively put out a fire!?!  It is such a waste of money when they could just let their current EMS system (EVAC) do their job rather than waste money on apparatus to provide services already being provided…  Duplication of Services is the official term I believe. 

  • Thehappymedic

    Makes the exact same sense as a Quint.  You take 2 vehicles with seperate dutioes at an emergency, jumble them together, making each element less effective than they were apart, half the staffing and voila!  A 4 man engine and 5 man truck becomes a 4 man quint that can only do 1 task a tthe scene of an emergency.  Now you have to call another one…and we’re back where we started to begin with, only now with a limited fleet.
    never the three should be confused or combined
    I dislike this concept simply because it guarantees less work can be done at the scene of an emergency.  But they look great!

  • WVHillbilly

    This is what happens when EMS is a subset of fire fighting.  Ridiculous.

  • North chief

    Spartan quit producing the Furion chassis due to lack of sales, looks like someone sold Braun the rest of them and now they are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. You cant convince me these things will hold up as long as a standard ambulance. What happens when the first 3 engines to a working fire in a  multifamily structure at 3 am are these overgrown mini pumpers? and When the 2nd and third due have to take injured people to the hospital. This is a set up for disaster, it has never worked anywhere in the country, someone show me a successful example.

  • Anonymous

    Another stupid idea thought up by people with no clue as to how the fire service operates swallowed hook, line and sinker by the politicians who have no clue as to how the fire service operates…

  • RobV

    The medium duty chassis ambulances have a rough ride. I can’t imagine the ride for the patient in these rigs is any smoother. The larger type of chassis need to weigh a lot just to smooth out the ride. With an ambulance box on the back I haven’t seen that achieved.

  • Bill S.

    I always said the fire service went to hell in a hand cart when they put ambulances in firehouses. Some things just don’t belong.

  • ukfbbuff

    “Penny Wise and Pound (GBP) Foolish” Ben Franklin