It has already sparked debate about whether it should be white or red, but Japanese firm Morita Corp says it has come up with something truly useful — the world’s first combined fire engine and ambulance.



The leading maker of fire engines said it came up with the idea two years ago in response to local government authorities on tight budgets who wanted a vehicle that could perform either function.



While the vehicle cannot — obviously — be used as a fire engine and ambulance at the same time, it will give emergency personnel greater flexibility.


“Usually when there’s fire, there’ll be several vehicles rushing to the scene and emergency services can then prioritize,” managing director Yoshiharu Maruyama told a news conference.



Morita officials also noted that of the 600,000 times a year fire engines were called out in Japan, only 1.4 percent of the emergencies required fire extinguishing. The bulk of calls related to other rescue services.



That compared with the 4.2 million times a year ambulances are called out.



The development of the vehicle was made possible by deregulatory moves that meant Japanese fire engines no longer had to be made of steel.



Morita has used fiberglass-reinforced plastics in the chassis that have made the vehicle lighter and created more space, allowing the hose and other fire engine-related parts to be moved to the back and leaving the middle to be used as an ambulance. The company plans to begin sales from April next year and hopes to sell 200 vehicles over five years, aiming for cumulative sales of four billion yen ($34.46 million).

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