Durango Fire and Rescue impacted by supply chain shortage

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DURANGO, Colo. — If any vehicle needs to be reliable, it’s an ambulance – responding to emergencies with minutes on the line.

“We certainly don’t want to have challenges of breakdowns out there,” said Scott Sholes, EMS chief with the Durango Fire Protection District.

Once ambulances hit a certain mileage, the vehicles would usually get replaced, until now.

“Nationwide, there is a shortage of ambulance chassis,” Scholes said. “For the last couple of years, those chassis have not been available to us, so we are now in a position where we have three ambulances on order.”

Because of supply chain issues, it could take years before to get those ambulances. It used to be six months.

“I am worried about it all the time because a big part of my job is to help to find the funding and procure these new ambulances, so that we can keep a nice rotation going so that our EMTs and paramedics have safe reliable vehicles,” Scholes said.

That’s critical in a small Rocky Mountain town, when more resources are a six-hour drive through the mountains.  

“In 2021, we did 151 trips, long-range trips out of the Durango area to destinations, mostly the Front Range, occasionally to the Grand Junction area and this year we are over 160 of those trips.”

Sholes said that averages out to be a long-range trip pretty much every other day at least. So, with no date on when they will get new ambulances, all they can do is maintain their current fleet, and Scholes said that’s not as simple as it sounds.

“The challenge is that they are getting older and it’s not just the chassis that we can’t get, it’s the parts, and even if we can get them, the process is much slower so it certainly gives us a lot of concern that we may have more and more vehicles that are down for longer periods of time and then not be able to meet the community’s needs.”

Sholes added that luckily, they have enough ambulances in reserves to hold them over, but that time is not on their side.