A new group of emergency medical technicians began responding to ailing residents this week as part of the Glendale Fire Department's efforts to expand advanced life support coverage throughout the city.
As of Monday, the new EMTs replaced firefighter/paramedics, who would have otherwise responded to emergency calls in a rescue ambulance. Now, 18 firefighter/paramedics will be on nine engine companies.
"The transition has been pretty seamless for everybody," said Station 21 Fire Capt. Jim Vancil.
The move to increase the Basic Life Support transport system was developed to help offset the loss of 21 firefighter positions due to budget woes, pushing the total workforce deficit to 38.
Fire officials said the plan could eventually save the city up to $2.5 million annually.
With the system's expansion, fire officials had to hire 60 EMTs to work 12-hour shifts to avoid incurring overtime.
The hourly, part-time workers don't have medical benefits and work about 30 hours per week, Battalion Chief Greg Godfrey said.
Until this week, the department's Basic Life Support program had been operated on a small scale and handled non-emergency calls.
Paramedics typically responded to emergencies only in their rescue ambulances, transported patients to the major hospitals and remained there until physicians no longer needed their help.
Now, EMTs respond to all calls as part of a firefighter/paramedic engine company.
Having two firefighter/paramedics on an engine company and responding to all calls means that residents will receive immediate life-support services, Godfrey said.
Previously, there were no paramedics on an engine company, so firefighters would have to wait for a rescue ambulance to arrive.
"There is an increase in service level," he said.
Four ambulances will be in service around the clock and an additional two ambulances join the rotation during peak hours, which start at about 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. and decline about midnight, Godfrey said.
Most of the Fire Department's calls are for medical services. As of Friday, dispatchers logged 125.
Firefighter/paramedics haven't seen any major changes in the way that they treat patients, now that they are on an engine, Vancil said.
For the new EMTs, the opportunity to respond now to all emergency calls has allowed them to see and learn from firefighter/paramedics in action, said EMT Sarah Cooper, who also hopes to become a firefighter.