Fire Department receives new equipment
August 27, 2008 · Updated 4:45 PM
ARLINGTON The Arlington Fire Department is getting some late Christmas presents this year, since the Arlington City Council resolved Jan. 16 to purchase them a new Jaws of Life, thermal imaging camera and chassis for Medic 48.
According to Arlington Fire Department Deputy Chief Tom Cooper, the new Jaws of Life cost $19,000, and unlike their current Jaws of Life, is designed to cope with recent changes in car technology since the increased strength of more recently built vehicles makes it more difficult for the Fire Departments current Jaws of Life to do their job.
The new thermal imaging camera cost $10,306, but it will augment, rather than replace, the current thermal imaging camera, now 10 years old. Cooper emphasized that the current camera is still useful in certain situations and will continue to be used until the expenses of repairing it render it cost-ineffective. However, he couldnt hide his enthusiasm for the new camera, which is a quarter of the size of the current model, making it small enough to be worn by firefighters, rather than carried.
Cooper clarified that thermal imaging cameras allow firefighters to see heat sources, and even residual heat imprints, in dark or smoke-filled rooms, giving them the ability to identify hidden hot spots or people, with such detail that a person can be tracked by the body heat he or she leaves behind in their footprints. He touted the benefits of the cameras to search and rescue teams, who can use them to locate missing hikers from helicopters, and noted that the temperature scale in the camera can even focus on specific objects.
While the Jaws of Life and the thermal imaging camera were purchased with the remaining proceeds of a bond issue that was passed years before, the $124,764 price tag of the new chassis for Medic 48 came from the emergency medical services budget. Compared to the cost of purchasing an entirely new ambulance, which Cooper estimated could run as high as $210,000, he asserted that the cost of an ambulance chassis alone is relatively minimal.
The box typically outlasts the chassis, so we can remount the box two or three times, Cooper said. So, we purchase a new chassis and fix it onto the old box. Our current chassis is at about 125,000 miles, which is getting up there. Remember, we dont usually warm it up. We crank it up in a hurry, power it up on the highway, and work it hard.
Cooper also cited the great improvement in patient comfort afforded by the new chassis, while contending that the Fire Department was likewise concerned with making good use of the taxpayers money.