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O.C. Grand Jury suggests cutback in firetruck dispatches

Because actual fires comprise only a fraction of requests for service, it’s time for Orange County fire officials to reconsider the efficiency of sending firetrucks to so many calls, the county grand jury announced Tuesday.

Of the 180,000 incidents reported by the county’s various fire agencies in 2010, the grand jury found, 134,000 – or 76% -- were for medical emergencies involving no fires.

The Orange County Fire Authority, the county’s biggest such agency, which covers 1.7 million people, 23 cities and the county’s unincorporated areas across 580 square miles, reported that less than 2% of their 88,227 calls were for fires or explosions.

Still, the grand jury noted in a press release, “each call generally results in both fire trucks and ambulances being dispatched to the site of the emergency.”

The role of fire departments has evolved dramatically in the last four decades, with the emphasis shifting from fire prevention to medical calls, though the mode operation has not kept pace, the grand jury reported. There has been talk of finding new models, “but little change has been accomplished,” the grand jury said.

The grand jury is recommending that independent consultants be enlisted to evaluate emergency-response methods and make their findings public.

“We’re in the process of reviewing the [grand jury] report,” said Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Kris Concepcion.


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