By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It was a heavy week of heavy equipment for the Morinville Fire Department. The department’s new rescue truck arrived Thursday night and was pushed into the department by firefighters, as is tradition. On Friday morning STARS Air Ambulance arrived in Morinville with their new $16 million AW139 helicopter, a larger and more modern unit than the BK117 the airborne paramedics have used for years. Friday’s fly-in was to acquaint firefighters, paramedics, RCMP and Town of Morinville’s Public Works employees on the aircraft and how it differs from the BK117.
STARS Air Ambulance paramedic John Bly said the new helicopter has a number of differences key to the work they do. “We’ll be able to go a greater distance. We’ll be able to go faster to get there,” Bly explained. “Whether it be scene or hospital calls, time is an important factor.”
The paramedic said the AW139 is more spacious inside than its predecessor, allowing more room to work on patients while in the air. “The BK is the work horse and it’s a great machine. But it’s pretty crowded. You don’t move around too much in there. We’re excited to see how it’s going to work out for patient care.”
STARS pilot Alan Baldwin said the new helicopter is a state-of-the art machine.
“From the technology standpoint, it is 21st Century technology,” Baldwin said, adding the side loading of patients is standard practice with many EMS operators.
“We have a stretcher system that very easily allows us to slide the stretcher onto a trolley system and go.”
Baldwin said the helicopter’s greater range would allow pilots and paramedics to service their entire area approximately 15 to 20 per cent faster than the BK117. He said refuelling is a concern for the BK117 on longer round trips for patient transfer. “With this we should be able to get to Calgary and back without refuelling,” he said. “What that does is puts us back into service in our communities 15 minutes to a half an hour quicker.”
New truck will do the job first
Although the AW139 lifted off from Morinville Friday morning until the time a medical emergency brings it back to the area, the Morinville Fire Department’s new rescue truck remains to get firefighters to emergency situations.
The Pierce Quantum Heavy Rescue Truck arrived Thursday night at the Morinville Fire Department. After smashing a bottle of champagne over the 53,000-pound truck’s front bumper, Morinville firefighters pushed the truck into the fire station in firefighter tradition after Acting Chief Brad Boddez called dispatch to put the truck into service. Firefighters spent the next few hours training on the rescue truck’s new technology ahead of the Town of Morinville’s official ribbon cutting and unveiling of the new unit in early September.
The $849,900 unit replaces the Morinville Fire Department’s aging 1993 Unit 5 model, which was used in 90 per cent of the department’s calls. Unit 5 responded to as many as 325 calls per year and generated $74,010 in revenues in 2011, outside the community call charges paid by Sturgeon County and the province. Conservative estimates of $50,000 per year in billing would see the new unit paid for on a cost recovery basis over its two-decade life expectancy.