Guest Contributor Juan Lopez
When you call 911 in Littleton with a medical emergency, an ambulance may not come. When you call for a fire engine, there may not be enough firefighters to enter your building. Read on for why.
Before Littleton Fire Chief Christopher Armstrong’s 2013 arrival, Littleton had shared fire and rescue with South Metro Fire Rescue (Arapahoe and Douglas Counties) and somewhat with West Metro Fire Rescue (Jefferson County). If Littleton did not have the closest unit, the closest of the others would respond. And vice versa. Statistically Littleton received more aid than it was giving. The obvious explanation was not having enough resources to manage the volume of calls in Littleton.
But when Armstrong became Fire Chief, closest unit dispatching stopped. Even if a South Metro or West Metro fire engine or ambulance is just around the corner from a Littleton resident who needs help, it will not be sent.
In mid-2014 Chief Armstrong developed a pet project called a “Quick Car.” This is a concept being abolished by most who have tried it–due to inefficiency. Quick Cars are light duty pickup trucks, outfitted with medical equipment and basic tools, and staffed by a paramedic and a firefighter. The most recent two units cost the taxpayers $160,000 and only one is being used.
The Quick Car backfills empty stations when the engine or ambulance usually assigned there is gone. That means your emergency response may be a pickup truck with no water or hose. Littleton is the only fire department in the metro area that does this.
Furthermore, if a Littleton resident calls 911 for a medical emergency, a Quick Car—which cannot transport the sick or injured–may respond rather than an ambulance. This is even though we know from the Littleton Fire Rescue that 88% of all medical calls in Littleton require ambulance transport to the hospital.
Chief Armstrong’s Plan A staffing model for the Quick Cars will cost $667,539 even though the service cannot put out fires or transport a person to the hospital. The money to purchase these vehicles and staff them is wasteful spending.
Littleton is also the only metro fire department not pursuing the National Fire Protection Association recommendation of staffing all fire engines with four firefighters. Littleton first sends an engine of three fire fighters, followed by four which arrive statistically three minutes later. That three-minutes delays fire suppression and searching for potential victims. And it increases the price of fire insurance.
Littleton’s 2015 strategic plan online states all of this, even about how they need four firefighters before they will go inside a burning building, but only staff fire engines with three. The Chief’s bad decisions are risking our safety and survival.
I’m fearful of not having an ambulance or adequately-staffed fire engine to help me.