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Madison fire truck

Fire trucks can sometimes get to an emergency faster than an ambulance and can also assist paramedics in getting a patient onto a stretcher, Madison Fire Department spokeswoman Cynthia Schuster said.  

Q: Why is a fire truck sent with each ambulance, even on medical calls?

A: Fire trucks can sometimes get to the emergency faster than an ambulance, and even a one- or two-minute difference could make the difference in saving someone’s life, said Madison Fire Department spokeswoman Cynthia Schuster.

“We want to make sure we get medical help on scene as soon as possible,” Schuster said.

Every firefighter is trained as an emergency medical technician (EMT), and the city has more fire crews than ambulances, Schuster said. Firefighters can provide basic medical care until the ambulance arrives.

Some fire crews also have a paramedic on board, Schuster added. For example, Fire Station 14 at Dairy and Femrite drives on the Southeast Side has one paramedic and advanced life-support medical supplies.

City ladder and engine companies are expected to arrive at an emergency within six minutes of a 911 call being placed. Ambulances are expected to be on the scene within eight minutes.

Fire crews can also be helpful if a patient needs to be lifted up on a stretcher, Schuster said. With the firefighters, a total of six people can lift patients to a stretcher and move them to the ambulance, instead of just two paramedics, Schuster said.

“It’s just safer for everybody to have more people on the scene to help,” she said.

— Emily Hamer

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Emily Hamer is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the paper in April 2019 and was formerly an investigative reporting intern at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.