Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why does a big fire truck go on medical calls?

This is a question that I get asked a lot. You can see from the photo above, and if you do a Google search of "fire trucks, engines, paramedics. etc.," the norm is that firefighters use fire engines and ladder trucks to deliver emergency medical services. The photo above is featured on this website.

Why is this the norm?

Quite simply, firefighters have to be prepared, no matter where they are, no matter what they may be doing - building surveys, fireworks patrol, training, etc.  - to respond to any type of emergency. These emergencies include house fires, heart attacks, auto accidents, hazmats, garage fires, strokes, entrapments, car fires, deaths, apartment fires, stabbings, heroin overdoses, people getting run over, shootings, etc.

So, firefighters take the fire engine or ladder truck with the pump, the hoses, the ladders, the nozzles, the breathing apparatus, the cutting tools, the axes, the chainsaws, the defibrillator, the medications, the oxygen, and the all their protective gear with them wherever they go.

If a fire call comes in and they are on a medical call and the patient is OK, or the ambulance shows up, if they are returning to the station from a medical call, if they are on their way to a medical call and they see smoke billowing out of a home, if they are picking up medical supplies from the hospital, they can respond immediately because they are already with, or in, a fire engine or ladder truck. Likewise, if they are at a fire, because they have medical gear on their fire apparatus, they can perform emergency medical services for a fire victim immediately.

All of this saves time. Time is the enemy for firefighters - whether they are in their EMT role helping a stroke or heart attack patient or whether they are acting in their fire suppression role in the early stages of an exponentially expanding apartment fire.

If you have a scanner and were listening to the recent Lincoln Terrace apartment fire, you would have heard fire companies, from all across the city, clear from the medical calls they were on ASAP and proceed directly to the fire. They didn't have to drive back to the station and get "the big fire truck." Today, you can walk by the scene of this fire on 7th and Lincoln, and see what could have happened, if the response had not been timely. With homes and apartments, uphill and right against the apartment complex, the fire would have spread quickly and pretty far into the neighborhood.

To me, and probably to you, this concept seems like a simple thing to explain to others.

If you ever get asked why firefighters take the big trucks on medical emergencies by a friend or neighbor, would you please let them know? Thanks!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A tale of two cities...

A friend referred me to an article about the budget woes of Tacoma and their fire department. I dug a little deeper and thought you may want to know how the budgets of your Spokane Fire Department stack up against Tacoma's. Also, what is the call volume like in comparison and some other numbers for your perusal:


2012 Tacoma daily staffing - 74
2012 Spokane daily staffing - 59
2011 Tacoma run volume - 25,000
2011 Spokane run volume - 30,000+
2012 Tacoma Fire Dept budget - $131 million
2012 Spokane Fire Dept budget - $43 million (35 general fund, 8 EMS levy)
2006-2010 Tacoma median household income - $47,862
2006-2010 Spokane median household income -  $40,367
2010 Tacoma population - 198,397
2010 Spokane population - 208,916

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today or tonight, you can help keep the fire engine in the neighborhood fire station.

Forecasted 2013 budget constraints will cause about nine  Spokane Fire Department layoffs. In addition, there are many vacant position (from retirements) that will also remain vacant for 2013.  For my neighborhood, this means Station Nine on 18th and Bernard will be losing the staffing for their fire engine by eliminating their 12 positions (three crewmembers, four shifts).

Current plans are to move Rescue One (a two person truck) from Station One (Downtown) to Station Nine, when the 12 positions are removed. This truck carries no water and has no pump. If there is a fire in the neighborhood, fire attack will have to wait until an engine can come that is able to pump water. This engine would likely come from Downtown or from Perry and 32nd. And even if Rescue One had a pump and water, because this will be a two-person crew instead of three, fire suppression safety laws would severely limit the ability of the crew to fight fire or rescue occupants, especially when first in.

Going from three to two persons also affects emergency medical services.

Because Rescue One is the city's one rescue truck, it is dispatched to every structure fire that occurs in the city. When that happens in the future, there will be no firefighters at Station Nine.

The city council is considering implementing a one-percent property tax hike. This has been done over the last few years by our previous mayors. The median cost would be $4.50 per year for each household (or about 38 cents per month per home).

Councilman Snyder has voiced his support for this. I don't know about Mike Allen, our other South Hill council member. His email is and he can be reached at 625-6255. There will be public testimony on this tonight at the city council meeting.

If this passes, with some of the funds (some will go to the police too), they could save three to four positions and keep our neighborhood fire station open with a three-person fire engine, just like it is now. Downtown's two-person Rescue One would remain unstaffed until budget projections (another subject for another day) get better. 

As you know, I am a little biased about this, so my opinion won't count as much as yours. But, I can say that even if I weren't a firefighter, I would still be very supportive of paying 38 cents per month to keep a fully-staffed fire engine at Station Nine in my neighborhood.  How about you? Thank you!

Spokesman-Review article is here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Very proud of our state!

This month's elections in The Great State of Washington have legalized gay marriage, decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, went solidly for Barack Obama and elected Jay Inslee as governor. Even locally, with a few exceptions, Spokane has shown itself to be a fairly rational place.

Like all Democratically-leaning states (givers), we subsidize Republican-leaning states (takers), but that's OK. They will see the light some day too. Every state will eventually progress. Right now, we're leading the way.

One more reason to love our state:

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Ok. There was an election party at our neighbors' house, Brad and Neda's. Contrary to what we were told by FoxNews, it seems as if most of our candidates won handily.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Spokesman-Review Editorial - DENIED!

Sent this in about 5 weeks ago. I received the usual confirmation telephone call which I returned, but for whatever reason, the letter did not get published.  Tomorrow is the big day, so here it is:

Andy Billig is the clear choice for our next third district state senator.

Andy not only leads a successful Spokane business, one which employs many, he has been our champion in the state house of representatives, bringing Spokane values to Olympia. Andy has continually reached across the aisle, building consensus to enable and assist  Washington families, business owners, retirees, students and veterans.  His pragmatic, thoughtful approach is impressive. His incredible work ethic is inspiring. Andy has been endorsed by many organizations and businesses, all across the political spectrum.

If you want a state senator who puts results above ideology, one who will do the work, one who will make Spokane proud and give us a credible voice in Olympia, please vote for Andy Billig for state senate.

Thanks for reading this!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Whitestone Winery Party

The Spokane area has a lot of great wineries. One of my favorites is Whitestone. The cool thing about Whitestone is that the vineyards are right on the banks of Lake Roosevelt, probably the closest working vineyards to Spokane. They have an interesting microclimate which allows some phenomenal reds. Today, they opened up their winery in Wilbur to show the way they make the stuff, and to feed us! Thanks!