A New Look in Ambulance Service

2019 Ford with Horton Box


A new look to the decades long ambulance service has occurred with the purchase of West Peoria’s fifth ambulance--an all red ambulance. In the past, the ambulances have been primarily white with accents of orange or red. The new ambulance paint scheme matches the engine companies and the rescue truck.  

In addition to the new look, the ambulance sports updated equipment to assist during emergencies, such as a new cot, defibrillator, stair chair as well as a layout more conducive to treating patients. Other features focus on emergency medical technician safety. A new cot lift which lifts the cot and patient for easier loading into the ambulance, preventing potential back injuries. An oxygen bottle lift also is a new feature that again prevents injuries, making certain EMTs and firefighters are available to answer the call.

The ambulance cost $211,000 but additional equipment brought the total cost to $286,000. The new ambulance replaces a twenty-two year old vehicle which will be put up for sale with the proceeds going to offset the purchase price. The department has been saving for the purchase for years and paid cash for the ambulance, keeping a long held tradition of not going into debt for apparatus purchases. The firefighters’ association also contributed money toward the purchase of equipment. Those funds come from fund raising efforts.

Ambulance service in West Peoria started in 1975 to provide West Peorians with the best possible service.  

“West Peoria Fire Department takes 1972 Hearse, creates ambulance” was the 1975 headline from the Peoria Journal Star heralded the beginning of free emergency medical service to West Peorians by the fire department. The article quoted then Assistant Fire Chief Hoy Turner as stating the motive in starting the ambulance service was to “save residents money and provide a good service.” Prior to the new service, residents needing emergency care had to summons a private ambulance company for transportation to the hospital.

The first ambulance was a 1972 Oldsmobile that was purchased for $6,000. Officials at the time estimated the ambulance service would only increase the call load by 60 per year. However, the new service definitely fulfilled a much bigger need in the community.  

In 1977, the fire department transported 217 patients, well surpassing estimates (West Peoria, 1978). In 1978, after an accident damaged the 1972 Oldsmobile, the trustees decided to trade-in the Olds and use the insurance money to purchase a new ambulance. The new ambulance was a heavy duty Chevrolet truck with a box style body. The $25,000 unit carried more equipment and had increased room to care for the patient.

After ten active years of service, the time had come to replace the ambulance. The truck portion was rusting and increasingly needed more and more maintenance. It was decided to purchase a new truck and have the box portion of the ambulance refurbished to save money. A 1987 Ford diesel chassis was purchased. The newly refurbished ambulance cost $31,700.  

In 1997, the time had come to replace the 1987 unit. The replacement ambulance had a more efficient layout for emergency medical technicians to deliver the utmost care. Additionally, more space was available to accommodate the advances in life-saving equipment. The 1997 ambulance cost $90,000 and was paid for through memorials, donations, fund raisers and taxes. The sale price of the old ambulance also offset the purchase price

 West Peoria Fire Department took delivery of a new ambulance, a 2019 Ford E450 with a Horton Box. The new ambulance replaces a 1997 Ford with a MedTec box.