The Mount Pleasant Fire Department has saved the town about $18,000 in gas, according to its chief. The savings stem from a pilot program enacted by the department a year ago to substitute the fire engines that deployed to every medical call with a fully-medically equipped sports utility vehicle.

The quick response vehicle, or QRV, was placed in the Bowman Road Station and manned by two paramedics. After the year-long test, yesterday the newly customized vehicle officially became part of their fleet.

Seventy percent of the fire department’s calls are medical with a total of 3,936 medical emergency calls last year, according to Chief Herb Williams.

That number was a major contributing factor to the wear and tear on the fire engines, he said. So, the QRC not only saves on gas, but on maintenance and adds about three to five years to the lives of their fire engines, Williams said. “It is designed as an advance life support unit. It’s manned with paramedics and has all the capabilities the ambulance has but doesn’t transport,” he said.

This QRC is the first of three Williams plans to put into service in the town. The next one, already approved for next year’s budget, which goes into effect in July, will be placed in the north end of Mount Pleasant, he said.

“My idea in plan is to divide the town into three different zones and put one in each,” Williams said. “It can get to residents quicker. It’s less intimidating, uses less gas and saves wear and tear.”

The fire engine averages five to seven miles to the gallon. The QRC averages about 12 to 15 miles to the gallon, the source for the $18,000 gas savings in the last year, according to Williams. The vehicle is a $30,000 Chevy Tahoe that has been customized with $20,000 worth of medical equipment.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.