Calls for medical help make up an increasing share of the Minneapolis Fire Department's work load, according to its annual statistical report.
The department received nearly 2,000 more calls for emergency medical service than it got in 2011 -- an increase of 5 percent. Since 2003, EMS calls have risen 13 percent.
But while medical runs are up, the number of fire calls the department handles continues to drop. It was down slightly from 2011. Since 2003, fire calls have decreased by 38 percent.
The trends in Minneapolis mirror the nation. According to a 2012 report from Emergency Services Consulting International:
In communities across North America, the number of fire calls has declined over the past decade. Yet as the frequency of fires diminishes, in part due to stricter fire codes and safety education, the workload of fire departments has risen sharply; medical calls, hazardous materials calls, and every sort of household emergency is now addressed by fire departments.
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Calls for service may be up, but the number of firefighters employed by Minneapolis has dropped. While the department has recently begun training and hiring new recruits, it has also seen more retirements than it expected. The Minneapolis Firefighters union says that means it takes longer for crews to show up when residents call 9-1-1.
"You're expecting the city residents to believe that with less firefighters, less rigs and less people on the engines you're getting the same response that you used to. That just is not so," union president Mark Lakosky said.
The department's average response time has increased by about 30 seconds since 2001. It improved slightly in the most recent report, standing at a little less than four minutes.
Lakosky urged the city to hire forty additional firefighters, which would bring staffing levels close to where they were in 2003 and cost roughly $3.7 million dollars a year, based on city estimates used during last year's budgeting process.
Here's the full report: