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Structure fires now a small fraction of work

More and more ambulance calls received

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
The Dixon Fire Department responds to an accident on Galena Avenue in August. Emergency medical services make up the majority of calls for the department. In 2012, only 15 of 1,706 calls received were for structure fires.

DIXON – More than 80 percent of Dixon’s fire calls are for ambulance services.

That figure is no surprise to Dixon Fire Chief Tim Shipman, who has seen an increase in ambulance calls over the years, but it speaks to the changing role of firefighters.

No longer are they expected to only put out fires, but they are also trained paramedics.

Dixon’s fire department started its ambulance service in the mid-1970s. Then, the department took about 200 ambulance calls for the year. In 1987, that number grew to 544, before topping out at 1,454 calls in 2012 for emergency medical services.

In total, Dixon Fire received 1,706 calls in 2012. Only about 15 of those calls were for structure fires, Shipman said.

Dixon’s fire department provides a paramedic-level service.

“Nowadays, if people don’t need the police, they call the fire [department],” Shipman said. “We have to be somewhat prepared for anything.”

The ambulance service generated $340,000 in 2012. Of that amount, 15 percent is used for employees’ wages and benefits, and the rest goes to buy new vehicles and equipment. For instance, this money helped to buy a new aerial truck.

Firefighters are trained not only to understand structure fires, but also to handle hazardous gas fires and rescues of all kinds.

A deputy chief position was created to manage training and inspections.

“Whenever we’re not on call, we have a team out there doing inspections,” Shipman said. “We try to stay on top of it. We’re also involved in prevention and public education, going to schools and local businesses.”

Firefighters are required to receive 20 hours a month of education in non-emergency medical service, Shipman said.

To become a paramedic, firefighters must get 950 hours in clinical and classroom training, Shipman said. An emergency medical technician needs 140 hours of training, he said. To continue that training, 120 hours are needed every 4 years.

Paramedics can administer drugs, start an IV, conduct a defibrillation, or take an EKG in the field, Shipman said.

“We’re doing things that help the hospital treat people quicker and get them in the [catheterization] lab quicker,” Shipman said.

Dixon Fire has two ambulances and works closely with Dixon Rural, which also has two.

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