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Smaller vehicles used for Mont. fire department

Quick-response vehicles went into service last month and are smaller versions of traditional fire engines that could save money over time

The Bismarck Tribune

BILLINGS, Mont. — The Billings Fire Department has started using two new vehicles officials say are better suited to respond to the medical calls that make up the majority of emergency runs.

Fire Chief Paul Dextras said the quick-response vehicles that went into service last month are smaller versions of traditional fire engines and could save the city money over time.

“It’s not really a new concept in fire departments,” Dextras told the Billings Gazette. “They’ve been using them for years, and other departments are doing the same thing. There are alternative ways to do things.”

The vehicles are Ford F-550s modified for the fire department. They cost $120,000 each and thousands more to outfit with equipment.

But Dextras said the vehicles will extend the life of larger and more expensive vehicles needed to fight structure fires. He said the quick-response vehicles, or QRVs, also use less gas and cost less to repair than the larger vehicles.

The Billings Fire Department in 2009 responded to more than 13,000 medical treatment calls and 173 building fires.

Dextras said the smaller vehicles can also be used to fight smaller fires such as trash bin fires. However, he noted that with smaller hoses and less equipment, the vehicles aren’t intended to be used on large structure fires.

Firefighters’ Union Local 521 questioned using the vehicles in April before the city council approved buying them. The union noted slower response times because of having to transfer equipment between vehicles.

Now that the vehicles are in use, a union official said the vehicles would be given a chance.

“We’re responding in them when appropriate and we’re going to support them and give them a year, just as the fire administration said they’d do,” said Dan Cottrell, union president. “We’re embracing them for now and we’re trying them out.”

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