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Sugar Land firefighters concerned about plan to shuffle resources

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sugar Land city officials are considering taking over EMS services, and the move could potentially impact fire response.

The concerns are for citizen and firefighter safety. some are concerned that this proposal could spread firefighters too thin.

Fort Bend EMS right now responds to all medical calls in Sugar Land. With every ambulance, a fire truck is also dispatched, no matter the medical issue. But that's set to change as Sugar Land implements its own EMS service.

City leaders say the goal is to provide residents with better, faster service.

"We believe we should have a response time of eight minutes for 90 percent of all advance life support calls in Sugar Land," city of Sugar Land Spokesman Doug Adolph said.

How to change that is still being ironed out, and that's where some firefighters are concerned.

"They're not guaranteeing that they're gonna keep the same level of service that the citizens are currently receiving," said Keith Mensik with the Sugar Land Professional Firefighter's Association.

Mensik is worried about one proposal that would have the city hiring 11 firefighter/paramedics but moving another 11 off of fire trucks and into ambulances. He says that could mean fewer personnel on any single truck to handle fire fighting or rescues.

"I believe by reducing staffing on fire trucks that we are making it more unsafe," Mensik said.

The city says it is looking at that option: Reducing fire truck staffing levels from four to three at some stations. Some already have only three.

A city spokesperson says if there is a need for more fire crews, they would simply dispatch additional trucks.

It's worth noting that this is something the city is studying. No decision has yet been made on fire department staffing.

By the way, this is one issue council members will be discussing at a town hall meeting tonight.

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