Last year the New York City Fire Department responded to nearly 62,000 fire incidents, or roughly 160 every day. That's a lot. But it actually reflects a step drop in firefighting over the previous 16 years—a 49 percent drop in fire incidents since 1998. Over the same period, the number of medical emergencies that FDNY handled jumped by a third. New York's firefighters now respond to medical calls 15 times more often than they rush to potential fire scenes.
The change in FDNY workload (which City Limits reported on in July) has many causes, but one is the 1996 merger of the city's emergency medical service with its fire service. A report out Wednesday from the Citizens Budget Commission argues the city needs to retool FDNY to reflect the change in its work.
"When a New Yorker sees a firetruck heading down the street with its lights flashing and siren
sounding, the odds are less than one in five that the firefighters are headed to a fire; it is
more likely that they are responding to a medical emergency," the report reads. The problem, CBC says, is that "the FDNY does not efficiently address its most common job: responding to medical emergencies."