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Grant will pay for utility task vehicles for Willmar, Minn., fire, ambulance crews

Thanks to a grant from the Willmar Area Faith at Work organization, local emergency workers will have access to two utility task vehicles and trailers to haul them. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Ambulance Service and the Willmar Fire Department have for years each wanted a piece of equipment called a utility task vehicle.

Ambulance and fire officials say such a vehicle can be equipped with tracks that allow personnel to drive on debris-strewn surfaces, through fields and over snowdrifts where a wheeled vehicle might get a punctured tire or become stuck. The tracks can be removed when not needed and wheels installed.

Officials have talked about the possibility of buying such vehicles but were unable to do so through the normal budgeting process.

"These are pieces of equipment that when you do need 'em, you need 'em,'' says Brad Hanson, ambulance service operations manager. "It was something we had talked about in the past as sure-would-be-nice-to-have-these.''

Thanks to a grant from Willmar Area Faith at Work, each agency will receive a utility task vehicle and trailer to haul it. Faith at Work raised $38,150 during the memorial service sponsored by nine churches in observance of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The donations were dedicated for the vehicles and trailers.

"We were contacted by the Faith at Work group earlier this year with this idea of doing a project that would give something back to the community,'' said Fire Chief Marv Calvin.

Calvin said the group asked what kind of purchase had been wanted but impossible to do through the normal budgeting process.

Hanson said a committee representing the fire, ambulance, police, Kandiyohi County Emergency Management, Sheriff's Office and county rescue decided on vehicles that could be used by all agencies versus equipment specific to a particular agency.

Hanson said one vehicle will be stored at the fire station and one at the ambulance garage. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to install or remove the tracks. One vehicle will have its tracks on and the other will have its tracks off, allowing emergency workers to select a vehicle that's suited to the situation.

The rescue squad received a utility task vehicle through a Homeland Security grant several years ago. The vehicle was used by emergency workers last January to haul equipment and to transport a Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee whose legs were pinned under a car in the Willmar railroad yard.

"We were able to drive over the railroad tracks,'' said Calvin. "If we had had two of them, we could have had one set up to transport and one hauling equipment. It would have been advantageous to have more than one at that particular incident. It didn't delay the individual's transport or treatment because we had everything ready.''

Also, task vehicles with wheels, rather than an ambulance or rescue squad vehicle, can more easily maneuver around crowds and transport water or medical supplies that might be needed during events like Sonshine and Willmar Fests or stand by during events like the downtown block party.

The vehicles will be available to Kandiyohi County fire departments and emergency medical services.

Officials are grateful for the grant.

"We appreciate the efforts,'' said Hanson.

The Willmar City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee will recommend the council tonight give Calvin permission to accept the grant and to adjust the budget accordingly.

The vehicles will be purchased from Motor Sports of Willmar and the trailers from Dahlberg Sales of Willmar.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150