Easthampton lands grant for new ambulance

  • Easthampton Municipal Building. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/10/2021 8:59:20 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The fire department will get a new ambulance in 2022, thanks to a substantial federal grant. However, this new vehicle still won’t meet all of the department’s needs.

“Our calls are just going up and up,” Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant provides $275,000 for the purchase of an ambulance, which will be paired with a 5% local match. The match will come out of city cannabis revenue.

LaChapelle said the grant was the first one she worked on with Fire Chief Christopher Norris, and that they submitted it in the spring of last year. The application came with letters of support from the offices of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, and the offices of both lawmakers lobbied for the grant as well.

“Easthampton residents and firefighters deserve resources that safely and efficiently allow the life-saving skills and therapies during a necessary medical emergency,” Norris said in a release from the mayor’s office. “These grant funds will help propel the department forward to meet the growing demands for service and increase the safety of our personnel.”

The new ambulance, expected to arrive next spring, will replace an ambulance with more than 110,000 miles on it.

In a related development, LaChapelle said the fire department is drafting a five-year capital improvement program that will identify other equipment needs. That program is expected to be implemented in fiscal 2023.

She also said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in the department’s resources, and that if the city could get a grant for a second ambulance it would do so.

In an interview, Norris said that at the height of the pandemic, call volume was down but the severity of cases was up, with a number of people needing to be transported to Baystate Medical Center — increasing mileage on the ambulances. Recently, however, call volume has gone up.

“Over the past three to four months, more people are getting out and about,” he said.

He also said that 80 percent of the department's calls are medical at this time.

“That’s going to be huge,” Norris said of the new ambulance.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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