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McLean fire department expands capacity by adding a third ambulance

The McLean Volunteer Fire Department has added a third ambulance, on the right, to its vehicle fleet (courtesy MVFD)

For the first time since it was established in 1921, the McLean Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) has expanded its vehicle fleet to three ambulances.

The newest ambulance began operating out of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Station 1 (1455 Laughlin Avenue) on Feb. 21, but it will get an official, public reveal this Saturday (March 2) at the annual “I Love McLean” celebration.

Sponsored by the McLean Citizens Association (MCA), this year’s “I Love McLean” festivities will also include musical performances, light refreshments, and arts and crafts. The event will take place at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue) from 1-4:30 p.m., though the ambulance will only be on site until 2:30 p.m.

MVFD officials initially planned to invite community members to see the ambulance at the station before realizing that they already had a perfect opportunity for a showcase on their calendar.

“The ‘I Love McLean’ event is a big deal, and there’s lots of folks,” MVFD President Patricia Moynihan said. “So, we essentially just piggybacked on it and thought, ‘Well, we’re going to be there anyway.’ Let’s just take it out of service and let folks know that we’re going to be there.”

According to Moynihan, having a third ambulance will boost MVFD’s capacity to respond to emergencies not just in McLean, but anywhere in Fairfax County. It will also provide more flexibility for training personnel and continuing service even when a vehicle is taken out of rotation for repairs or regular maintenance.

She noted that the capacity expansion doesn’t require additional staff, though more volunteers are always welcome.

“We’re super lucky in McLean in that we have a full-time career staff, and then we have a total of 80 volunteers, and we have the largest number of paramedic volunteers…of the county volunteer stations,” Moynihan said. “…We’re always looking for new folks, trying to increase our ranks and our capabilities, but we can staff all three [ambulances] between the career and the volunteer folks at this point.”

Thanks to a $38,496 grant from the McLean Community Foundation, the new V011-2022 Road Rescue Ultra Medic has a Stryker Power-LOAD system that mechanically raises and lowers the cot used to load patients. The technology makes the process safer for both patients and first responders, who can develop knee and back issues from moving and lifting people, Moynihan says.

One of the department’s older ambulances — a 2018 Road Rescue Ultra Medic — also features a power-loading system, but the oldest one, which dates back to 2015, still has a model cot that Moynihan hopes to get replaced.

Overall, the ambulance cost $307,000, an amount partly covered by both large and small community donations. The biggest contribution came from the Woman’s Club of McLean, which raised $13,000 with a Kitchen and Garden Tour that it organized last April.

MVFD also got the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval to pursue a loan of up to $250,000.

Even as they celebrate their latest vehicle acquisition, MVFD leaders are working to raise funds for the next one: a new fire engine that has already been ordered but isn’t expected to arrive until at least 2026.

Moynihan says the cost of that apparatus has ballooned to over $1 million — twice as much as an estimate shared last summer. MVFD will be responsible for 51% of those costs, and Fairfax County will pay for the rest under an agreement similar to the one that enabled the department to buy its existing engine.

The department’s current plan is to keep both engines and use the new one as the main call responder, freeing up the older engine for community events. However, Moynihan cautioned that those plans could change by the time the new engine is available.

“We will have a second secondary engine that we can use, or if there’s something big that’s going on…like the explosion in Sterling in Loudoun County, we would then have an extra engine that we could lend to whoever needed it,” she said.

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