MISSOULA – With calls for service soaring to new levels, the Missoula Fire Department is launching a new pilot program, using existing resources in an innovative new way to deploy firefighters and equipment.
Missoula Fire is busier than ever right now, and the projections are for the department to hit a new milestone in the coming months.
“We’re going to be pushing close to 10,000 calls for service this coming year. We were at 9,043 last year, looking at our numbers and of those 9,043, about 33 percent of the time we have at least two calls going on simultaneously,” said Brad Davis, Missoula Fire Dept. Assistant Chief for Operations.
Now, the city will try and match that demand with a new “Peak Activity Unit”, assigning teams of two firefighter-EMTs to be able to “float” to calls between City Fire’s three busiest districts.
Having that flexibility will allow the assigned engine companies to stay attached to their stations, having the Peak team available for backup, or providing an immediate response during overlapping calls.
“They’re looking to try to alleviate some of the call pressure off of these engine companies,” Davis said. “But also, absolutely, if we have any other type of fire, rescue or any other emergency medical call, CPR call, anything of that nature they can absolutely provide additional manpower as quickly as they can get there to help the overall system.
While the team will roll out in this multi-purpose rig that has patient capabilities, Missoula Emergency Services will still handle the city’s emergency medical calls. But the additional transport capability can help in “mass casualty” situations where there are many patients, or even helping firefighters recover and rest.
Davis says because the “Peak” teams are experienced firefighters, they can help wherever needed.
“They can do emergency calls, structure fires, river rescues, hazardous material calls. Basically, anything you can think of.”
MFD has enough funds to try the “Peak” teams as a pilot program through the first part of summer and will be tracking how well it works to see if might be a solution through the busy summer months.
“We want to use this as just a trial period to capture how effective this can be and improving our station reliability and improving our response times and providing that additional manpower on scene. And trying to make it work for the City of Missoula, keeping in mind the efficiencies and just being fiscally responsible.”
The “Peak” teams will also give the existing station crews a more direct manpower backup, instead of having to pull an engine crew from another station across town.