For years now, the Port Coquitlam fire department has responded to even the most basic of medical calls with one of its large fire engines.
But come May 1, that will change. As part of major operational adjustments coming to the PoCo department, firefighters will be responding to heart attacks, falls and broken limbs in a new medical response vehicle.
The vehicle is actually a Ford F-150 pickup truck equipped with the necessary medical supplies to handle the job.
"It's very quick to respond to medical calls," PoCo fire chief Nick Delmonico told The NOW.
The chief explained the larger engines are being run off their feet, so to speak, attending medical calls, causing wear and tear on the expensive equipment and costing extra money for fuel.
The larger trucks are also harder to manoeuvre in a growing city.
"It made sense from both a response as well as a fiscal [point of view]," Delmonico said, noting Port Coquitlam will just be the second community in B.C. to use such a response vehicle.
Employing a response vehicle was one of 32
recommendations to come from an eight-month review of the department carried out last year by the chief.
A total of 58 per cent of calls for the fire service are medical related, which doesn't include responding to accidents.
Delmonico noted the increased call volume is directly tied to the growth in population.
In 1991, the fire department responded to 1,100 calls, but by 2012, the number had quadrupled to more than 4,000.
The move to the smaller vehicle and the change in service wouldn't have happened without an increase in manpower at the fire halls.
After going 22 years without an increase in staff, PoCo city council finally gave the green light in this year's budget to hire six new firefighters.
The increase works out to one position for four shifts.
That allows the department to run three full members on an engine, rather than the 2.5 previously and move crew to the smaller truck for medical calls.
"It doesn't sound like much, one person, but it is quite a large gain for us," Delmonico said, adding the operational changes will help offset some of the costs for the extra firefighters.
The extra firefighters will also get the department closer to industry guidelines of having a crew of 16 responding to a one-alarm residential fire.
With the new members, the department can now sends 11 on each call, up from the 10 of years past.
The new firefighters will be ready to suit up by the end of April.
PoCo Mayor Greg Moore said he's pleased by the changes coming to the fire department.
"It's a higher level of service and at the same time it will save us money," he said.
In terms of the medical response truck, Moore noted the fire service has changed over the years, adding it made sense from a service delivery and economic perspective to reflect that difference.
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