MERRIAM WOODS, Mo. -- Just as tourism around Branson is picking up for the season, the Taney County Ambulance District loses nearly $500,000 worth of medical equipment in a fire.
It broke out just after 1 a.m. Wednesday in Merriam Woods at TCAD Station #6. The fire destroyed two ambulances worth $200,000 each, in addition to tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment.
"This is the first time we've had a fire so this is going to be new territory for all of us," said TCAD Deputy Chief Jeff Hawkins.
The Deputy Chief says the equipment played an important role in his department covering the some 600 square miles of Taney County.
"That truck was actually being used last night, the crew had just returned to the station," said Hawkins referring to the ambulance that caught fire.
The Fire Department believes an electrical spark near the battery caused the first truck to go up in flames, later igniting a second fire on the ambulance that sits beside it at the station garage. Both trucks are considered a total loss.
"It kind of makes me sick to my stomach," said Hawkins, because the District has just put the second ambulance, a 2012 model, on the streets. Hawkins also gave examples of some of the equipment lost inside the trucks. "This (heart) monitor costs $35,000... our new ambulance cot, it’s a powered cot, those run roughly $11,000."
The Deputy Chief says the Department is now down to 9 ambulances across the County, but he says even during the peak season, they only need 6 or 7 out on the streets at a given time.
"Normally we just respond together, all the time... the other thing is we park our trucks in buildings just like they do," said Western Taney County Fire Chief Chris Burndt. Burndt says the firewall inside station #6 did its job: containing the fire so that the building can be salvaged, and possibly saving the lives of the two TCAD medics inside the station.
The Fire Chief says he isn't worried that the fire will delay the response times of his fellow emergency crews, ""while we were still fighting the fire they were putting the crew in another ambulance and they were back in business, so to speak."
It could be more than 4 months before the ambulances are replaced, and insurance is expected to cover the costs. During the recovery effort, medical crews working at station #6 will assist at the station in Forsyth.
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