HOBART | Removal of an ambulance from Fire Station No. 1 isn't putting lives at risk, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Kerr said.
The ambulance, which was removed on Monday, has been replaced with a new advanced life support engine that can do everything an ambulance can do but provide transport, Kerr said.
"In no way, shape or form are our citizens getting less service," Kerr said.
The ambulance at Fire Station No. 1, 400 E. 10th St., was removed as part of a temporary response plan that will be evaluated in 60 days, Fire Chief Brian Taylor said.
Ambulances will remain in place at Fire Station No. 4, 7710 S. Colorado St., and Fire Station No. 3, 710 Colonial Drive.
"The Fire Department, like all other departments in the city, is currently undergoing evaluation and review for its most efficient and effective method of operation. All aspects will be scrutinized to ensure the citizens of Hobart are receiving the utmost in service at all times," Taylor said.
Firefighter/paramedic Skip Howard, during a recent equipment inspection, pointed out benefits of the ALS Engine's Life Pack 15.
The Life Pack equipment allows paramedics and emergency medical service personnel to shock a person's heart back to the right rhythm or return the pace back if too slow.
The equipment also allows professionals to print out information on the individual, then provide it to doctors.
Drugs and narcotics, IVs and chest decompressors are also available to the professionals on the new engine.
"It's exactly the same as an ambulance but we can't provide transport. This gives us a head start prior to the ambulance coming to transport the individual to the hospital," Howard said.
Not everyone is sold on the temporary plan.
Tom Castle, president of Professional Firefighters Local 1641 union, said his biggest concern is the response time of ambulances because one will be on the north end of the city and one on the south end.
"My concern as union president is the response time since it will increase. They are cutting the number of ambulances and hurting the citizens who live in that district as well as those throughout the city. The EMS has been cut in half," Castle said.
Hobart resident Therese Sielski said response time for an ambulance to arrive also concerns her because of the many train crossings in the city.
"If an ambulance has to come from Station No. 4 there are tracks and from Station No. 3 there are tracks. How many times do you get stopped by a train?" Sielski asked.
Sielski, whose brother Ted Hansen, died serving as a Hobart firefighter, also is concerned that this might be a move toward the city going private with its EMS.
"Right now they have less men than when my brother died," Sielski said.
Kerr and other officials, including Mayor Brian Snedecor, said removal of the ambulance is not the start of the city going to a private emergency medical services.
Taylor has also said the number of firefighters, EMTs and paramedics on duty each day will not change.
"The high quality of service has not gone done," Kerr said.
The status of Hobart's emergency medical services has continued to be a hot issue of discussion since Jan. 9 when several city officials met with Superior Ambulance to hear a proposal.
Snedecor said last week he intends to hire a consultant to study the issue prior to taking any steps to remove the city service.
Castle also opposes privatizing the city's ambulance services because it could potentially mean the loss of 12 to 14 firefighters.
The department now has 50 firefighters who are cross trained as paramedics or emergency medical technicians.