Wildfire trucks retrofitted to operate as ambulances because of COVID-19

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MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in Utah, paramedics are taking on new methods to answer people’s calls.

Unified Fire Authority is converting their brush trucks once used to fight wildfires into ambulances.

“What we have done is prepare them for medical response calls, which is something we have never used them for before,” said UFA’s Matthew McFarland.

First responders expect it to be a busy couple weeks ahead.

“What we foresee is a lot of people with flu-like symptoms, also, people with potential COVID-19 symptoms, that are going to call emergency services,” he said. “Nobody knows exactly how this is going to affect emergency services right now, because this hasn’t happened. It is unprecedented.”

Wildfire truck retrofitted to an ambulance
Photo courtesy of Unified Fire Authority

That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid if you see a brush truck rolling up to your house instead of an ambulance you expected.

“We’ve thrown medical gear on there and we prepared a staffing plan where they could respond to any number of calls when the call volume increases,” McFarland added.

Have questions about coronavirus?

Packed with just about everything an ambulance would have the retrofitted trucks won’t be used to transport patients.

“It is not going to compromise your transport,” he said. “If they show up and immediately determine that someone needs transport, they are going to get that ball rolling right away, and we are going to have a transport rig there by the time their assessment is done.”

One call paramedics can’t help with is testing you for COVID-19.
They say they’ve received a couple calls regarding testing and you should contact a medical provider for that.

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