WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Macomb Firefighters Busier Than Ever

Mar 12, 2015

The Macomb Fire Department isn't just focused on flames. In 2014, firefighters responded to 1,774 incidents. That works out to be more than 4 runs a day.

Fire Chief Andy Taylor said more than 60% of them were requests for medical services. The entire crew is EMT certified and able to provide basic medical care on-site.

Chief Taylor said that basic medical care includes treatment for broken bones, heart attacks, seizures, bleeding and other trauma.

McDonough District Hospital also provides emergency medical services in Macomb. But, frequently, the fire department makes it to the scene first.

“They [MDH] only man two ambulances for the whole county so it may be a while before transport could be provided there until they get a call back crew. We are lucky in Macomb, we usually get pretty quick service,” Taylor said.

There are limitations as to what a firefighter can do.  They are not authorized to provide transportation for the patient to the hospital nor can they administer some forms of medication.

Macomb has about 18 full-time firefighters. They work six on a 24 hour shift.
Credit TSPR's Emily Boyer

Taylor said firefighters started becoming a main source for medical care in the mid-1970’s. He said many departments even provide full transportation to the hospital. But that requires a change in funding structure.

The Macomb Fire Department is funded by property taxes. To get into the business of transportation, MFD would need to start collecting fees from assisted individuals or their insurance companies. Taylor said that’s already a tricky process for ambulance providers.

“From what I’ve learned it’s s 50-60% collection rate for what they [ambulance providers] get for all the transportations. When people don’t have insurance and that kind of stuff, it makes it hard to get reimbursed,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he’s not sure if that’s a path Macomb would be interested in going down.