Mountainair got delivery of a new ambulance, which the town’s mayor called “life changing” for residents.
The ambulance belongs to the town and will be stored in the Emergency Medical Services barn, Mayor Peter Nieto said, adding that the town plans to rename it the “Sam Blackshear EMS barn,” after the currente EMS chief, who started EMS service in Mountainair out of a van.
“He’s … still a part of the EMS department and so we want to name it after him,” Nieto said.
Nieto said Mountainair is in the process of supplying the ambulance, which is expected to be up and running in about two weeks.
Transports to Albuquerque will start in one to two months. He also said he wants to get the town away from volunteers to a paid EMS service. “I have to have meetings with our ambulance crew, and discuss how that’s going to work, how it’s going to look for them as far as payments,” he said.
Town Clerk Dennis Fulfer broke down where the money for the ambulance came from.
“Primarily the $135,000 came from the New Mexico Department of Health, $135,000 from a grant, $45,700 came from USDA facilities grant, and the rest of it just came from the town,” he said. “Now that we’re up and running we’re working on transportation to Albuquerque which is going to supplement the income that we get from the state from the EMS fund. And that will definitely help replenish our coffers from the additional $58,000 that we had to pitch in ourselves.”
Tim Hutchens, who works for Southern Emergency Rescue and Emergency Vehicle Sales, where the ambulance was purchased, said the ambulance cost more than $200,000 and will give Mountainair “years and years of great service in the harsh environment.”
“The chassis is a Ford F-550 4×4,” he said. “I guess your typical ambulance in the United States is a 450. A 550 has extra payload on it, has an extra heavy-duty suspension on it. … The ambulance itself, apart from the chassis, is an AEV, which stands for ‘American Emergency Vehicle.’ AEV is the top selling ambulance brand in the United States. It got that way because it’s built tough. It’s an extremely top-of-the-line ambulance.”
Nieto said the purchase of the ambulance has sparked “pure joy” for the town.
“This is life-changing for Mountainair,” he said. “When you move to a rural area like Mountainair, the first question is: ‘How is your medical facilities? How are your ambulance services?’ People want to feel secure and make sure that if they ever have to use the service, that it’s top of the line. This ambulance has been [purchased] after two years of blood, sweat, and tears. You know, discussions, arguments, laughter, everything. This is the culmination of two years of work with a lot of people.”
Fulfer said this is “a huge step forward” for the town because the EMS Department is one of the most important departments. He also explained what the graphics on the ambulance symbolized for the town as well.
“It’s a pulse,” he said. “[When] the front of the vehicle approaches the scene, [the pulse] is flatlined. The person’s dying. And then all of a sudden, the pulse starts up again at the end of the vehicle. That’s symbolic of the lifesaving quality of this vehicle with what the vehicle brings to the scene. But it’s also indicative of how we see this vehicle as being life blood, revitalizing and bringing back to life our EMS department and the town is itself as a whole. So, there’s a lot of symbolism just in the graphics of the vehicle itself.”
Nieto said that the colors they chose for the ambulance were red and black, the colors of the Mountainair Mustangs. He said he wants to combine Mountainair “as a full force, full town, everything just together as one.”
Hutchens said he doesn’t typically get involved in the delivery of the vehicles but loves to deliver to small towns because it’s more fulfilling than delivering to larger forces and cities.
“I know what they do, where their heart is, and … the folks that they’re gonna be transporting, they’re gonna know them, each one of them, and each one of the patients is gonna know their EMT and paramedic,” he said.
“All of our EMS crew was there [when the ambulance was delivered,”] Fulfer said. “Mine and the treasurer’s hairs were standing on end because we were so nervous and so excited about this whole thing. There’s a huge emotional connection for a small town like Mountainair. It’s just what it means to the town, what it means to saving lives in our community.”