Wilmington Fire Department restructures its deployment system

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some major changes are underway at Wilmington’s Fire Department, affecting who responds to calls and how quickly they get there.

Fire Chief Steve Mason says these changes have been in the works for a few years, and could mean faster response times, better preservation of equipment, and less money spent.

When Wilmington Fire Department decommissioned two of its fire engines and moved its staff to three newer, smaller squad trucks, it sparked a little controversy.

“People will think, we’ll the city’s growing, its becoming more dense,” Mason explained. “So we shouldn’t be putting engines out of service. We should be putting more engines in service. But when you look at the call volume, yes the call volume’s increasing, but it’s not fires.”

According to Mason, its medical emergency calls. At this point, EMS calls make up more than half of their calls. Mason says until now, firefighters would sometimes respond to those calls with fire engines, increasing wear and tear.

“But it doesn’t really matter what you show up on,” Mason continued, “It matters if you get there in a timely manner and you’re equipped to save someone’s life.”

The fire department started deploying squad trucks on the Fourth of July. Master Firefighter Jarod Payton says time is always of the essence. He was able to get to one crash site in less than a minute Thursday afternoon.

“When a person’s deprived of oxygen, its imperative for us to get there as soon as possible to maintain that quality of life,” he said.

And when it comes to fires, Mason says this new system means more firefighters on their biggest engines. According to the chief, the department only needs one or two engines to pump water at an emergency, but they need 17 to 21 firefighters at a structure fire.

“To really be able to be effective in getting people out of the building safely mounting an offensive fire attack to have a good chance of saving the house or property, you’ve got to get people there in a quick manner,” Mason said.

Chief Mason says using fire trucks for non-fire related calls meant paying for replacement more often. By using the squad trucks for medical calls, Mason says engines will be better preserved and more available for structure fires, leading to even faster response times.

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