With almost half its firefighters now certified emergency medical technicians, the Martinez Fire Department is becoming busier responding to medical emergencies in Columbia County.
In addition to its recent increase in trained staff, the department has six stations and can often respond to critical calls even faster than Horizon Emergency Medical Services, the county's ambulance contractor.
"Anytime Horizon feels that we can respond faster, our unit is dispatched to the scene," said David Butler, administrator of the Martinez Fire Department. "It makes the community a little bit safer because we have six stations that are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Firefighters typically stabilize the patient until EMS arrives, he said.
Last year, the fire department responded to only 40 medical calls throughout Columbia County. In the last seven months, that number has increased to 164.
Since the fire department began providing rescue coverage to the north end of the county on Jan. 1, it has also responded to 157 rescue calls and wrecks with injuries on county roads.
"Whoever is closer and can offer the fastest assistance takes the call," said Pam Tucker, Emergency Services director for Columbia County. "With fire stations placed strategically throughout the county, they're often closer to the scene and using them is one of the best things that could have happened."
The department has already met its objective of having either an EMT or first responder on every shift and eventually hopes to have all paid personnel at least first responder certified, according to Capt. Robert Rosier.
Fire trucks have an average response time of three minutes and are dispatched to calls dealing with everything from patients with chest pains to extrication at the scene of an auto accident.
Fire officials say the department's extra efforts do not interfere with its primary function of fighting fires.
"I can't recall a time where we had more than one engine company dispatched to a medical call," Capt. Rosier said. "When we have one on a critical call, that still leaves five engines to help pick up the slack. We have gotten a lot busier, but we're able to help the public even more that way."
Scotty Fletcher can be reached at 868-1222, Ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.