Guam - Two Guam Fire Department ambulances that the agency is currently leasing have been down for the past week after the units experienced engine problems. It's an issue GFD was thought to have overcome after getting the units months ago.

It's been four months after Mid-Pac Far East brought in the first leased ambulance for the Guam Fire Department, and today two of those four leased units are down and undergoing repair. The first ambulance assigned to Dededo Fire Station went out of service two weekends ago, according to GFD fire chief Joey San Nicolas, "It's been down for eight or nine days and it went down for a break in the turbo system."

The problem, San Nicolas says, was quickly identified by the vendor, however not long after a leased unit in Barrigada became inoperable. "The second ambulance broke down last Thursday for the same problem and parts were ordered for it right away but the vendor did take a proactive approach," he added.

But it's an approach that results in the units sitting and waiting for parts from off-island to arrive. "This is definitely a break within the engine. But what the vendor says is easily repairable but I'm sure they got the lesson learned and will probably keep extra parts on island," he said. "Maintenance is a problem not just for old ambulances, maintenance problems for the current ambulances, until we get to a point where we have an adequate fleet which is somewhere in the range of ten to fourteen, so we can take ambulances off the road for preventative maintenances we're going to continue to have problems."

Acting Governor Ray Tenorio, who oversees the island's public safety agencies says he too is aware of the ambulance setback. Each unit is leased by GFD at $10,000 a month including maintenance. San Nicolas says an agreement is in place so his department does not end up shortchanged. "The amount of days that it's out of service will be tacked on to the end of the lease," he said.

But with three new units purchased with DOI funding expected this summer, San Nicolas admits the end of the lease may come sooner. "When they do arrive that will definitely be one of the top questions that I want to answer as soon as I can dissolve this lease the better it is for our department and overall government, and this lease is definitely serving its purpose to be a stopgap measure to take care of us now while we wait for these ambulances to arrive," he said.

Since getting the four medics, GFD consistently worked with seven ambulances. There is six today stationed in Tamuning, Barrigada, Yigo, Inarajan and Umatac. San Nicolas adds the leased units gave GFD mechanics more time to fix its ailing fleet. "We've been able to place older units that we were finally able to repair back in-service so our ambulance status hasn't quite dropped," he said. "When we're done with this ambulance situation I hope and I think all of our people do that we'll never have this problem again."

The fire chief anticipated at least one leased unit back online today.

In the meantime, San Nicolas says the Toughbooks billing system for ambulance services finally arrived, and firefighters will begin training on the electronic devices on March 19.