With new ambulances, N.Y. fire department is back in EMS business
One Lockport alderman described the process of restoring EMS as a battle to save the fire department after budget issues and the layoff of five firefighters
By Benjamin Joe
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
LOCKPORT, N.Y. — Lockport Fire Department got back into the ambulance service business Tuesday, answering four calls between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the time scheduled by city officials to announce LFD's re-entry via press conference.
The department's expected re-entry date was March 1, but Fire Chief Luca Quagliano said it's "ahead of schedule."
"We did our due diligence and we did a lot of work. ... We're ahead of the initial tentative schedule on March 1, so almost two weeks. We're really happy about that," he said.
The state Department of Health inspected the city's two ambulances on Feb. 9 and found two violations in the older vehicle that were addressed with "minor repairs," Quagliano said. One issue was a service action panel that wasn't in place. The other involved an oxygen regulator that "blew up in front of" the inspector when he turned it on. A new regulator was installed right away; the part cost about $70.
The two ambulances came into LFD's possession through unsolicited benefactors. One was from Harris Hill Volunteer Fire Company, which sold its 1999 Ford E450 Braun Ambulance, with 30,000 miles and 3,730 engine hours, to LFD for $5,000 in January 2022. The second vehicle, a 2009 Braun Ambulance with 55,000 miles on it, was a gift, literally, from West Herr.
Quagliano said the city's ambulance billing schedule has not been finalized yet but he was assured that calls can be billed retroactively once the schedule is in place.
Also, power lift systems have not yet been installed in the ambulances — that will occur within the next two weeks — so power stretchers are in use in the interim.
Quagliano said he is eyeing the purchase of a third ambulance, with a power lift system, for $56,000. That ambulance would go directly on the road while the 1999 vehicle is held back unless and until a third call comes in.
"That one's coming out of Penn Yan from Gorman Industries down in Elma. They do ambulances and buses. We were fortunate enough to get a first shot on it," he said.
Quagliano said he plans to pitch the purchase to the Common Council at its business meeting next week.
The price of a new ambulance ranges from $125,000 to $250,000, he added.
First Ward Alderman Paul Beakman, Common Council president, characterized the process of restoring ambulance transport service by LFD as a battle to save the fire department itself. City-operated transport service ceased in 2014, amid budgetary issues and the layoff of 14 city employees including five firefighters, during Republican mayor Anne McCaffrey's tenure.
"I believe the city Republican committee has an agenda against the Lockport Fire Department. I think if they had their way they'd like to see it abolished and this was their way of trying to put things in motion," Beakman said. "All it did was endanger every citizen in the community."
"There are still sections of politics that are anti-ambulance," Mayor Michelle Roman added. "Anti-safety, anti-the whole fire department."
Since she became mayor, Roman said, the operator of Twin City Ambulance — the commercial company that filled the void when the city service was shut down — had approached her "multiple times" about reversing that closure.
"After Covid happened, they came and said it was becoming critical and they didn't have the ambulances" to cover the city, she said.
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