GFD trying to douse the flames of controversy - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GFD trying to douse the flames of controversy

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The Guam Fire Department was placed under the microscope before lawmakers today after concerns were raised in the community about the lack of ambulances for the island. While the hearing has prompted legislation to get more units in the field, some fire officials remain concerned about the slow response to resolve the shortage.

Out of the 15 ambulances in the Guam Fire Department fleet, GFD today reported that they only have six working with one on standby. While GFD Spokesperson Joey San Nicolas explained that the working units are currently in Yigo, Tamuning, Barrigada, Agat, Umatac and Inarajan the concern was over the eight units that have been in the shop, as most were said to have been sitting for over the past year.

Fire Chief Dave Peredo noted, "That period of time is very questionable, I want to find out exactly why those particular vehicles out there and the status is rather disturbing because we do need those vehicles back on the road."

GFD did explain that part of the reason for the delay was that they were waiting to hear back on the warranty coverage, as they say the agency had been using the wrong kind of fuel to gas up the medics. Peredo claims he constantly asked his staff on the status of the ambulances needed repair. He admits the issue remains unclear to date, telling KUAM News, "We just recently received data that we were made aware of that issue regarding lubrication or the fuel for the ambulances that we are too concerned ourselves that future procurement of equipment will be in compliance to the required fuel to go with that equipment."

Captain Rueben Olivas added, "We're in the same situation and that's why we procure the ambulances back in 2003 that we received in 2005. Again, we're in the same situation, we didn't learn apparently form our pervious mistakes."

Olivas, who attended today's roundtable, felt the hearing should have been open to the public, so that recommendations could have been made to resolve the ambulance shortage. Olivas says the discussion only painted a rosy picture of the department's ambulance fleet, and didn't result in any major results. He feels action needs to be taken sooner to avoid more and more units form breaking down.

He said, "The ambulances have exceeded their life span and that's the reason why they've been breaking down. You don't wait until their life span is over which is about five years, before you start ordering, you need start doing that around the three year mark, and that didn't happen."

In the meantime, three units remain at Triple J pending engine block repairs, four with fleet services for a multiple number of issues, and one at GFD Maintenance for body repairs. The cost to repair all eight units is reported at just over $95,000, with about $115,000 collected in the FLAME Fund - so far that GFD is not able to touch due to billing issues, Senator Ray Tenorio today introduced legislation that would free up $100,000 from the fund for ambulance repairs.

Republican Senator Ray Tenorio, "It's very important that we get these ambulances and other apparatuses repaired as soon as possible. We can't wait until someone dies before we get this money into the hands of the fire department and repair those ambulances."

Tenorio says he will introduce Bill 376 to the speaker as an emergency measure during next week's legislative week.

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