As the City has grown and changed over the past few years, so has the Spokane Fire Department, as it continues to meet the shifting needs of a dynamic City and its people.
“The types of expectations from the public, as well as the needs of the public have changed. We have to adapt services along the way to meet those needs,” says Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer, who took the helm of the department in 2017, but has been a Spokane firefighter for more than 15 years.
One of the most impactful initiatives the City has seen from its Fire Department was the addition of Alternative Response Units in 2013. These two-firefighter teams use sports utility vehicles to respond to less-urgent medical calls 24 hours a day.
Prior to the launch of the program, these calls would be responded to in full fire engines. But adding new fire engines to the department comes at a significant cost. The SUVs, however, come at a fraction of the price and allow for more specialized and efficient responses around the City.
Continuing the need for more diverse social responses, the Fire Department reaffirmed the need for the CARES (Community Assistance Response) Team in 2015, aiming to further improve quality of life and reduce unnecessary use of the emergency health care system. The CARES Team, comprised of Eastern Washington University School of Social Work students, visit clients referred by firefighters to complete a thorough social service needs assessment. The Team develops a plan for connecting the client with community resources that address his or her needs. In 2018, CARES successfully connected 341 individuals with community resources and support.