Updated: 08/26/2014 6:24 AM
Created: 08/25/2014 9:59 PM KSTP.com
By: Beth McDonough
Earlier this year, an SUV driver collided with an ambulance near Buffalo. The driver died. Two Allina paramedics in the ambulance were also badly injured. Because of the very real risk of collisions like that, metro fire departments are changing the way they respond to certain calls.
Departments include Plymouth, Centennial, Andover, Blaine, Spring Lake Park and Mounds View. Even ambulance companies like Allina have new policies.
Coon Rapids firefighters respond to roughly 5,000 calls a year. However, not every one of them turns out to be an emergency. The Coon Rapids Fire Chief, John Piper, says few of them do.
So, the department is revamping its response to calls where there are no reports of smoke, flames or odor. Instead of sending two trucks full of firefighters to each and every call like in the past, one truck with a small crew will go check out an incident to see if it's minor or major.
But the change worries resident Lauren Zimkiewicz. Lightning recently struck the El Dorado Oaks Complex where she lives, zapping power and scaring her.
She was also surprised just one fire truck responded, "it makes everyone nervous, like what's going on only one person? If your house was on fire and one truck showed up I don't think anyone would be happy about it."
The move could save the department money by reducing the amount of gas and the wear and tear on trucks, fire officials said. Plus, trucks that roll out on a call won't be sent with lights flashing and sirens blasting on every run. The chief thinks this will reduce the number of collisions with emergency vehicles, protecting firefighters and motorists.
The Department of Public Safety says there were 650 collisions with emergency vehicles in Minnesota last year, another 454 so far this year. Some of those call were in Coon Rapids over the years.
"We want to serve the public and serve the public well, but on the other hand our response should not jeopardize the driving public or our first responders," Chief Piper said.
Other fire departments are doing the same thing. Ramsey fire saved $10,000 one year.
Chief Piper points out a response can be modified at any time, so if there is a true emergency more crews can be sent.