In a quiet but dramatic change, the Anchorage Fire Department plans to shift staffing next month to adapt to an ever-rising demand for emergency medical responses.
Managers recently reached an agreement with the city fire union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1264, to switch up staffing on fire rigs and ambulances. Starting in early April, two additional ambulances will be on Anchorage streets, growing the fleet from 11 to 13.
When Anchorage’s fire department first came into existence, it was created to fight fires, said Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick.
“But since the mid-'70s, 70-80 percent of our work has been emergency medical,” Hettrick said.
The fire department responded to about 785 fire-related calls in 2017. That number hasn’t changed much from year to year in the past decade, according to city manager Bill Falsey.
In contrast, fire crews and paramedics responded to 24,952 emergency medical calls in 2017. The number of patient transports has grown dramatically in the past decade, rising 37 percent since 2010.