SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Fire Department’s aging ambulances were under fire Wednesday by those who operate them.
KTVU has learned new information about the conditions of the city’s ambulances and equipment inside, as a fight between the firefighters’ union and the department over replacing the equipment begins to ramp up.
“A great majority of the ambulances having over 100,000 miles on them, that causes us great concern both for the firefighter and paramedics safety and for the public’s safety,” said Tom O’Connor, representative of SF Firefighters Local 798.
The firefighter’s union is ringing the alarm about aging equipment as the department prepares to receive $6.8 million in state funds. Union officials want the chief to spend much of that money on new hires, new equipment and new ambulances.
KTVU obtained documents from a recent internal audit by the fire department that evaluated the trucks and equipment, and it found that 24 of the department’s 41 ambulances have racked up 120,000 miles or more. Half of the 24 well-worn ambulances were listed in poor condition.
The audit also found that 43 of the 88 defibrillators used by emergency medical technicians were 12 years or older.
“So you have something that is so old that the manufacturer won’t even cover its performance,” said O’Connor.
The department’s EMTs told KTVU that the ambulances were in use almost around the clock and take a beating on San Francisco’s steep hills.
“It is an aging fleet. Currently, we have five ambulances on order and shortly thereafter, we’ll order another five,” said Mindy Talmadge, SFFD spokeswoman.
The fire department admitted Wednesday that it doesn’t have enough replacement ambulances and mechanics at its repair facility, but Talmadge insisted that patients have nothing to fear.
“The equipment is aging but it’s still operational and safe,” said Talmadge. “So patients and our crew members are safe in our ambulances.”
Adding to the urgency of the equipment replacement was the fact that the department’s ambulances were expected to start responding to 80 percent of the life support calls that come from the 911 center, which have increased by 10 percent over last year.