Boston's Fire Trucks for Fires? Or Much More?

Previously, I wrote about Boston About Results, and I’ll repeat my recommendation. It’s fascinating to see what city government does when it’s presented as data, rather than anecdote. Here are some facts that caught my eye:

The Boston Fire Department responds to approximately 70,000 incidents per year. How many of those responses are for fires? Fewer than 6,000. (To be fair, that count is for actual fires, not false alarms, so that low percentage shouldn’t be construed as a knock on BFD.)

How about medical incidents? Those are much more prevalent — about 40-45 percent of incidents are medical in nature. (See Boston About Results for the above data and more.)

So, why are we sending out 10-25+ ton trucks loaded with firefighting equipment to deal with medical calls?

Good question. Some communities are trying a different approach — Amesbury is using a ‘chase car’ — essentially an SUV equipped with medical gear and staffed by two firefighters — out on clearly identified medical calls. This approach reduces wear and tear on trucks and lowers vehicle operating costs (gas). It might also allow reduced or reconfigured staffing, depending on implementation and collective bargaining restrictions.

Take your own look at Boston About Results and see what surprises come from the data.