Photo courtesy of City of Sacramento

Photo courtesy of City of Sacramento

The City of Sacramento, Calif., is speeding up its vehicle replacements after receiving complaints about its diesel ambulances. A few weeks ago, the Sacramento Fire Department retired six ambulances after firefighters complained about headaches and dizziness. According to KCRA, two dozen firefighters filed complaints over three years.

Fleet Manager Mark Stevens said the city has been in the process of transitioning its ambulances from diesel to gasoline over the past few years due to the lower cost of operation. However, Sacramento City Council recently approved funds to replace some diesel ambulances ahead of schedule after drivers reported feeling sick. The source was found to be the ambulances' diesel particulate filters, which emit fumes when going through their regeneration cycles.

Stevens said the ambulances meet their design requirements, but the firefighters were more susceptible to the diesel smell since the ambulances are often left idling when answering a call. For example, air conditioning can bring the exhaust smell into the vehicle if internal recirculation is not on. In some cases, door seals were torn or missing and rear windows were left open because dirt built up in the tracks. In another, an ambulance hit a curb and the exhaust pipe broke, releasing the smell directly under the cab.

"A lot of those are not necessarily areas we couldn't address, but the vehicle hadn't been brought into the shop yet and hadn't been repaired," Stevens said. "At this point we found no issues that couldn't be repaired by ourselves or the local Ford dealer that didn't meet the design criteria for the year in which it was built. We are going to be more proactive in making sure that when these come in that we look in those areas we've identified." 

The city placed an order for six gasoline ambulances in November, according to its replacement schedule. After the recent ambulance retirements, it approved funds to order eight more. Until the replacements arrive, the city is getting some help from Sacramento Metro Fire, which serves unincorporated areas of Sacramento County, and private ambulances.

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