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Mon, Oct. 21

Fire chief: Get leaner, and save money

Remember erstwhile Paramedic/Firefighters Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto of "Emergency!" TV show fame, responding to calls in Squad 51 during the '70s?

One area fire department may be ready to bring that concept, pioneered by the LA County Fire Department (and still in use today), to Yavapai County, in a 21st century form.

Fire Chief Scott Freitag, continuing his series of presentations explaining the plan to join the Central Yavapai and Chino Valley fire districts, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, gave a preview of his vision for further cost savings at a meeting of Prescott Valley community leaders.

Freitag, who is the fire chief of both Central and Chino, was doing what he calls his "roadshow" on how creating a "fire authority" will save money and add efficiency to both districts.

The sneak peek came when he was speaking about future growth.

"When we talk about that, I don't want you to get the idea-the traditional model in the fire service is, 'Hey, we have an increased call volume, (so we will) throw a fire station, a fire truck, all the equipment and all the personnel you need to run it at a cost of three- to three-and-a-half million dollars...throw that at it.'

"We think there's a better way to do it," he said.

The solution, Freitag said, is what they informally call a "Quick Car."

The concept is simple: outfit a light truck, what firefighters call a "patrol," normally used to fight wildland fires, as a quick response fire and medical vehicle.

That way, the fire authority could "use these smaller, more maneuverable vehicles to reduce the call volume and wear and tear on (fire engines)," which, he added, means, "We save money."

Most 911 calls are for medical problems, which the paramedics could handle, but if there is a fire call, a patrol truck's equipment would allow them to start to get a handle on it until more help arrives.

A patrol carries a good deal more serious firefighting apparatus than Johnny and Roy's Dodge Rescue 51 truck, but the concept is similar.

Freitag said that covering calls in Dewey-Humboldt currently takes a fire engine out of Prescott Valley, and then another fire engine has to stage, or wait, for potential calls, at the Maverik convenience store at Highway 69 and Prescott Country Club Blvd.

"They spend a lot of time down at Maverik," he said, noting that a lot of non-emergency mileage is put on the fire engines by doing that.

A better idea, he said, would be to put advanced life-support gear on that patrol truck, assign two firefighter/paramedics to it, and have it available to cover that area.

"We would do it for a fraction of the cost," of a fire station building, a "Class A" pumper, and the nine firefighters it would take to staff them for three shifts every day.

"Now we've spent, call it $600,000 for easy numbers, instead of $3.5 million," Freitag said.

"We are looking at this as a business model," he said.

Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy. Call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2038 or 928-642-7705.

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