WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A prototype emergency vehicle that will operate as both an ambulance and a fire engine could be on the road for trials by the middle of next year.
The Fire Service and St John Ambulance hope the dual-purpose "fire-ambulance" will provide better care for patients, particularly in rural areas where volunteers are hard to find.
Fire Service national commander and chief executive Paul Baxter said the unit would be of most use to brigades that attended many medical emergencies.
It would be trialled around the country before the engines were rolled out where and when required.
"The most important thing is the support for the people on the street — it's about getting the help to them. It makes sense.
"This demonstrates a heightened level of co-operation between the services."
The prototype will weigh up to seven tonnes.
It will be based on similar models used in Italy.
The vehicle will have a two- person cab at the front, pump and fire equipment storage in the middle, and the rear will be a single stretcher clinical space with seating for two more crew members. It will also be fitted with an underfloor water tank.
The number of medical calls attended by the Fire Service has doubled in the last decade and last year firefighters attended 6000 medical callouts.
It was intended the prototype would be tested and trialled by brigades trained to a higher level of first aid.
St John national operations director Michael Brooke said the ambulance service found it tough finding volunteers in remote communities.
"Often it's the same volunteers doing the same things [both fire and ambulance work] and we want to make it easier for them. It's about the services working together."
Demand for St John's services was growing, with more than 350,000 incidents attended last year — a 4.2 percent increase on the previous year.
By Sam Boyer / The Dominion Post