On Wednesday, June 1, the city's fire department received two calls, one minute apart. According to Fire Chief Mike Pirie, a single medical call came in at 4:54 P.M., while the call regarding the Canals Crossing apartment fire came in at 4:55 P.M.
"The [medical] call [was] just prior to the fire which tied up one of the three crews. When the crew cleared the medical they then attended another alarm call while the crews were still on scene at the apartment building," wrote Chief Pirie. "The [medical] call was initiated when the crew was approached directly by a member of the public. The call was not initiated by EMS directly."
According to a press release from the city, 3 apparatus and 9 firefighters were utilized in the Canals Crossing apartment fire.
Airdrie's Fire Chief did underline that throughout the year it is not unusual for the city's fire department to deal with multiple calls and that calls do not happen in isolation.
"There are many times through the year where we juggle multiple calls. This particular medical call was not a life-threatening event but once our crews initiate contact they can't leave."
Chief Pirie stated that while the medical call was initiated by the public, it was unrelated to the response time by Emergency Medical Services. He added that Airdrie's fire crew waited 26 minutes for EMS to arrive.
"It was a bravo level response. This is not our normal level of response but the call was initiated when the crew was approached directly by a member of the public. The call was not initiated by EMS directly so it’s a bit different from past issues with long response times."
He also wrote that while the medical call tied up a crew that was needed on the fire, it was not taken from the response as the medical occurred first.
"We do pull crews at times from a scene and did so for the recent Midtown fire. It's very situational but not an unusual occurrence. The incident commander will try to pick a crew that is the least contaminated or committed and if it's not possible they will request mutual aid from Crossfield or Rocky View County."
Pirie added that the standing procedure is to have Crossfield send an Engine to Airdrie on all structure fires.
"They either provide the 4 Engine needed on fires or can help address additional calls in Airdrie while AFD is tied up."
Recently, the provincial government announced a pilot program in Strathcona County which will deploy community response units as part of the contracted EMS services provided by Strathcona County Emergency Services. The units will stay within the county and can improve service capacity and response times to urgent calls that require advanced care. There are also two pilots in Spruce Grove, including one to allow cross-trained firefighters-paramedics functioning as medical first responders to cancel inbound ambulances when not required.
Chief Pirie alluded to the program and noted that what occurred in Airdrie yesterday would be a great example of where having paramedics either cancel the EMS response or connect the patient with an alternate resource could alleviate cascading pressure felt by municipal emergency services responses.
"If we can get EMS on the scene sooner or have the ability for our staff to cancel or leave once its determined intervention is not needed urgently it reduces the impact on our department which has limited resources," Chief Pirie wrote.
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