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WHITESVILLE – Whitesville Fire & EMS have added a new truck to their fleet that will help them better serve their patients, according to Fire Chief Matt Lively.

“We are very lucky and thankful to have been able to find this truck and be able to put it into service in the coming weeks,” said Lively.

The 2021 Osage Warrior Box Ambulance sits on a Ford F-450 chassis. Ringing in at approximately $130,000, the truck has been outfitted with brackets and lighting that will push the price tag slightly over the purchase price.

“This truck was a scheduled replacement,” Lively said. “With the (COVID-19) pandemic, we were concerned about how the economy was going to be affected but luckily through things like the CARES Act, it didn’t affect us any. Through tight budget management and managing general funds that we generate through the ambulance service, we were able to continue on with the project and the replacement effort.”

He added, “We were benefitted a lot through government programs that allowed us to continue service through COVID that prevented us from taking a financial hit through the pandemic.”

Lively said the vehicle features the latest in technology related to ambulance service.

“It is an upgraded chassis for us,” he said. “Instead of a 350 or 3500 series chassis, we went up to the next one that enables better road handling, longevity and a heavier suspension to handle the rural road conditions we face on a daily basis. The liquid spring and hydraulic suspension controls the ride and lowering and raising of the back of the vehicle is a big feature for us as it helps with loading patients and provides for heightened patient comfort in the back.”

Lively said that, when patients have a long bone or spinal injury, the ride provided by the suspension assists with overall patient experience.

“When you can increase that comfort and reduce jarring of the patient, it is a very big deal, and we are most excited about that element, really,” he said.

The new truck brings the agency's fleet to two, four-wheel-drive ambulances and a pair of two-wheel-drive vehicles.

“It puts us in business regardless of the weather or the terrain,” he said. “We can still attempt to provide service.”

A low-cost brush guard was added to the front, providing a buffer for minor collisions or wildlife strikes.

“It could keep your truck in service and prevent it from being pulled for repair,” Lively said. “It is an insurance policy that could keep us moving after an unfortunate incident, which do occur in rural settings.”

Lively added that hitting deer is a common occurrence; one ambulance in the fleet struck one in recent weeks, causing light damage.

Beyond benefits like the ability to double-load patients, Lively said that one feature he particularly appreciates is the backup camera that features an audio feed for the cab.

Ideally, the agency would like to see the truck last 10 years.

“A big selling point for us with the Osage manufacturer was the ability to do remounts and continue a lifetime warranty with that. Essentially, if our chassis wears out, we can take that box, update the interior and place it on a new chassis for about half the cost of a new truck, and they’ll warranty their work.”

Lively said the agency likes to employ a month-on, month-off rotation for ambulances in the fleet which ensures routine servicing and safety inspections.

“Sometimes a truck may go down for something like brakes, and it interrupts that cycle but we try to stick to it,” he added.

The truck is in the process of having a radio installed and then the State of West Virginia will come in and certify it as a mercy vehicle.

“We could be on the road with this truck in less than two weeks,” he said.

Lively added, “Our crew has been very excited and prideful about it and it has been here for two days and they’ve been shining on it and we are proud of the Whitesville name and it shows through that.”

He concluded, “We got a whole lot of truck on a very realistic budget. Our EMS administration worked hard to get the most for our budget and work within that. I’m very proud of that, too.”

Inherently, the fire chief is the Chairman of the EMS Board of Directors.

The agency has 30 certified people serving on the fire department and 15 on medical crews.

Follow Whitesville Fire & EMS on Facebook.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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