City expanding fire coverage in southwest Spokane

Medical response enhancements also rolling out

Brian Schaeffer, Assistant Chief, 509.625.7002

Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 11:44 a.m.

The Spokane Fire Department is expanding fire service coverage in the southwest part of the City, and enhancing medical response by adding more Alternative Response Units (ARUs) to the pilot program and redistributing paramedic units.

A federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant is covering the cost of hiring and training a dozen new firefighters. Six of the positions will be used to staff a new two-person unit with firefighting capability in southwest Spokane. The other six will be dedicated to the ARUs, which are smaller vehicles staffed by one member (either an EMT or paramedic).

“Public safety is a citizen priority, and we are evolving our fire and emergency medical response to better meet that need,” said Spokane Mayor David Condon. “We are making Spokane safer.”

One two-person company will be added to provide full-time, seven-day fire service coverage in southwest Spokane. A total of eight firefighters will work four shifts. The grant is paying for six of the positions and the other two are being covered out of the existing fire department budget.

The ARU pilot program had already been extended through 2016 to cover peak times for non-life-threatening medical calls. The new positions expand that program to seven days a week.

“Our community is changing and we have to adapt to the changing needs, which are increasingly for non-life-threatening medical calls,” said Fire Chief Bobby Williams. “We are sending the right resources to the right place at the right time.”

ARUs will work out of Fire Stations 1 (Riverside and Browne), 4 (Riverside at the entrance to Browne’s Addition), 13 (Wellesley and Jefferson) and 18 (Lincoln and Division). Those stations receive the most calls for non-life-threatening medical response. Schedules will be staggered to run four units Wednesday through Saturday, historically the busiest days for medical calls. Two units will be used on the other days.

Additionally, two more paramedic units were added last week to provide better, quicker response to medical calls. Response areas have also been reworked to maximize coverage.

Last year, medical calls increased 10.3 percent. The fire department responded to 35,536 total incidents, including 30,891 medical calls. Non-emergency medical calls accounted for 47.5 percent of all calls and 55 percent of medical calls.

The 14-week recruit training class began this month and will finish in May. The SAFER grant is for two years. The City can request an extension of up to six months.