Fire department expands with mobile crews

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Colorado Springs Fire Department has created a new approach to combat the rising volume of calls – a mobile two-person squad based outside a fire station.

Similar plans have been instituted in places such as Seattle and Miami-Dade County, Fla.

The Springs’ first two-man squad responds to the Knob Hill neighborhood, near Platte and Circle. The two-man team, operating out of a specially equipped camper instead of an ambulance or fire truck, responded to 64 calls in its first week of service.

“Their response time is about 3.4 minutes,” said Dan Raider, deputy chief of operation for the department. “We’re really pleased with how it’s working so far.”

The area is home to the busiest fire station in Colorado Springs: No. 8, he said. So the department’s policy analyst suggested placing the two-man squad to relieve the fire station from some of the medical calls.

“The squad doesn’t respond to fires, but they do respond to everything else,” he said. “If they’re the closest – they’re the ones that go.”

The new two-man squad is an attempt to answer rising call volumes at a low cost, Raider said.

“We weren’t going to build a new fire station in that area,” he said. “The numbers just aren’t there – but this is a good trade-off.”

A new fire truck costs $305,000, while the camper – outfitted for emergency calls – costs in the neighborhood of $60,000. Two people operate the camper, while four are required for a fire truck.

“We’re going to be placing these around the city,” he said. “But we don’t have a time line for doing it – we’re at the mercy of the budget.”