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Fire department to convert ambulance to response unit

An old ambulance will have new life as a support vehicle for the Fort Macleod Fire Department.
The fire department will convert the old ambulance, now stored at the Town of Fort Macleod public works shop, into a multi-purpose unit.
“We could take that on as a response unit,” Fire Chief Allen Zoeteman said.
Zoeteman met with town council Nov. 13 to explain the proposal, which is based on one similar to that of the Nanton Fire Department.
Nanton firefighters converted an old ambulance to carry personnel to emergencies and serve as a command unit.
The Nanton firefighters also use the old ambulance as a medical first response unit to support Alberta Health Services’ ambulances.
Zoeteman outlined a similar plan for Fort Macleod’s old ambulance.
Zoeteman explained the vehicle will be used to carry firefighters to the scene of fires, accidents and other emergencies.
The vehicle will be positioned at crash scenes to assist with traffic control to ensure the safety of emergency personnel.
Firefighters will also use the old ambulance as a rest area when they are at fires and other emergency scenes for extended periods of time.
“It will just be kind of a multi-purpose unit,” Zoeteman told council.
The vehicle will be used to carry Fort Macleod firefighters when they are called out as medical co-response with Alberta Health Services.
The Town of Fort Macleod has an agreement with Alberta Health Services, which last June took over the ambulance service, to have firefighters provide the medical first response on rare occasions when an ambulance is not available.
Zoeteman told council that happens as few as eight times a year.
“If it’s one time a year, we have to be ready,” Zoeteman said.
The vehicle, which would be stocked with first aid supplies provided by Alberta Health Services, would also be available to organizers of events such as South Country Fair, the Canadian Country Weekend and rodeos.
Organizers of those events can arrange to have the vehicle on-site, for a fee.
“At no time will this unit be used for transporting anyone other than fire department personnel” Zoeteman stressed in his proposal to council. “It would only serve as a first aid station.”
Coun. Sharon Monical was concerned that people could have an expectation that patients should be transported in that vehicle to hospital.
“People are going to get the wrong idea,” Monical said.
In their role as medical co-response, firefighters can only provide assistance at the scene until the ambulance arrives.
“That is a concern,” Zoeteman said, explaining it will be addressed by removing any markings related to an ambulance from the vehicle.
It will be visibly designated as a fire and rescue vehicle.
“The perceived feeling about it could be wrong,” Zoeteman admitted. “On the other hand, we’re able to look after the patient better.”
The MD of Willow Creek has offered to take over ownership of the old ambulance and to pay any expenses to stock and maintain the vehicle.
“The costs of operating to the town would be none,” Zoeteman said.
Later in the meeting council voted in favour of the proposal, provided the vehicle is clearly marked as fire and rescue, the MD of Willow Creek pays all the operating costs, and the vehicle is based out of Fort Macleod.