Letters to the Editor

Time for a new model for the fire department | Letters

Again, we are hearing of a potential threat to remove vital services by a fire department steeped in tradition, one that continues to refuse to admit that it's time for a new model of a "fire" department.

The reality is (according to their own statistics), that the "fire" department is in fact an emergency services department, with the majority of their calls medical in origin.

With sprinkler systems, better construction, and excellent education by the department, fires are not as common as they once were.

In this tight economy, we, as citizens of Federal Way and the larger community, have been asked to tighten our belts. Our jobs have been affected, hours reduced. The health care industry that I work in has been forced to change the model of how we deliver care with some good results and room for continued change.

It's time for the fire department to look at their model as one that needs changing. Instead of having large fire trucks (with their single digit gas mileage) that respond to medical emergencies, why don't we have well stocked Chevy Suburbans staffed by EMT's responding initially, or add Medic One units (a true need)?

The fact is that we don't need so many large trucks. Dispatch appropriately. A motor vehicle accident is more likely to need some of the equipment on a large truck than is a call for chest pain in a home.

Federal Way is a bedroom community. Fires certainly make the news and are dramatic, destructive, horrible yet exciting (and the reason firefighters become firefighters, not EMS workers). But fires are not the majority of what the department deals with.

I would be willing to support the department's levy if they were willing to change their model. I would be willing to accept fewer large fire trucks in favor of more smaller vehicles made for responding to medical calls.

Yes, I know this may increase response time if my home caught on fire, but I'm willing to take the chance because the reality is that I will more likely need a medical response than a fire response, as are my neighbors and my community.

I get tired of patients that I care for in the emergency department telling me that they didn't call 911 because "I didn't want all those fire trucks crowding up my street and making a disturbance for the neighbors."

Perhaps The Mirror could also report on the many, many medical calls rather than just the occasional fire that takes place (which adds "fire" to the fear).

Please, fire commissioners, firefighters, EMS workers, civic leaders — take this opportunity to be cutting edge, responsive and work to create a new model for the "fire" department that is logical, uses our money in the most responsible way, sets a new standard for the region and the nation, and responds to the actual needs of our community.

Valerie Olson, Federal Way


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