PORTAGE | It's a time-honored tradition in the fire service to invite the community to stand beside firefighters and christen a new piece of equipment before putting it into service.
It goes back to the 1800s, explained Assistant Fire Chief Dan Kodicek, when they'd wet down the horses and a new pumper, then push it back into the station, signaling its readiness for its first call.
On Friday, members of the Portage Fire Department wet down 330 horses — all under the hood of the city's newest ambulance, Rescue 3. Because of the weather, the wetting ceremony was held inside the fire station's bay.
Firefighter/paramedic Tim Fercik, who was on the committee of firefighters who drew up the specifications for the new unit, said the newest ambulance has all LED lighting, allowing for better lighting inside the box to tend to patients. The LED lights also keep the inside cooler and use less energy.
Seating and a center-mounted cot were designed for better patient care, he said, adding the rig has both a cooler and a heating unit to keep fluids cool or warm, ready for their intended use. A camera above the rear door also allows the driver to keep tabs on what's happening in the back of the rig.
Kodicek said the ambulance was purchased from Braun Industries of VanWirt, Ohio, for $258,412. It will replace the ambulance at station 3 in City Hall. That ambulance, a 2006 Braun, will be used as a backup.
Kodicek said the city is moving to Braun ambulances because of the lifetime warranty on the boxes and the ability to remount the boxes on new chassis, eventually saving the city about 50 percent of the cost of a new ambulance. The department now has three Brauns. The box replacement will go into effect, said Kodicek, after the city purchases its next ambulance in a few years.