Playing with fire: Why some volunteer firefighters refuse to offer medical service, amid health-care shortages – CBC

Small town crews say tying up resources on medical calls can put fire response at risk and lead to burnout

Aug 24, 2022

In his 22 years of service with the Peachland Fire Department, Fire Chief Dennis Craig has rarely seen so many calls for medical service.

His department, consisting of 34 volunteers, has offered first responder service since before Craig joined. In 2021, it fielded 352 calls from residents in the District of Peachland, located just southwest of Kelowna, B.C.

Of those, 168, or just under half, were for medical assistance, a sharp spike from where the department was nine years ago when, according to the chief, medical calls accounted for just under 40 percent of the department’s responses.

“My concern is being tied up on a medical call and not being able to respond to a fire,” said Craig, 48. “Once our truck is committed to a medical call, it’s committed until we can hand it off to the same level of care — or higher.”

Craig notes that, in some rare instances, his crews have waited between 20 and 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

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