East Fork Fire Department tries shifting staffing
East Fork firefighters are hoping they can solve some of their staffing shortages while still providing a high level of service for the entire district.
“We only have so many people on staff a day,” East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said. “We are trying to increase staffing in certain areas by moving people around.”
That process will reduce the number of ambulances available by one in the district, but will increase staffing on the engines.
The district is undergoing a 30-day trial where the extra staff will be assigned to Station 7 in the Gardnerville Ranchos.
Once that’s done, Carlini said the extra staff will go to Minden Station 14.
“We’re able to do this because of the data we’ve collected over the years in terms of unit-hour utilization,” he said. “The ambulance in southern Douglas County is not used to the degree the others are used.”
Moving the ambulance staff to engines won’t affect the southern station’s ability to respond in advanced life support situations.
“Access to advance life support really saves lives,” Carlini said. “We’re not giving that up.”
The engine staff in the south county is cross trained as paramedics.
“There are paramedics at every one of those stations,” Carlini said.
He said adding a firefighter to the engines will improve safety and effectiveness for fire and accident calls.
“In the Frontage fire we were sending people into a situation with just two people on the engines,” he said. “That was a challenging situation for those engine crews. The goal is to improve our safety staffing, not just for wildland fires, but for structure fires and auto accidents and the other calls we go on.”
The district is committed to responding to a life threatening call like a heart attack in eight minutes 90 percent of the time.
Carlini said right now they’re making the time limit 94 percent of the time.
“We think we can move some people around and still meet the eight minute standard,” he said.
For the first month, the district will have two ambulance crews stationed at Station 7 in the Ranchos. For the second month, they’ll move the second crew to Station 14 in Minden.
Carlini said East Fork hasn’t been able to increase its staffing levels since 2009 and has seen a 50 percent reduction in volunteers, yet call volume has increased considerably.
“When you also consider the geographic challenges that the district faces, where by it can take as long as 40 minutes to go from one end of the district to the other along Highway 395, the challenge becomes even greater.”
Once testing is done, Carlini said he’ll bring recommendations to the new fire board, which takes office in January.