Jackson Pushes Through Fire/EMS Integration Despite Opposition

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In the face of City Council's ire and consternation, Mayor Jackson has initiated the integration of Fire and EMS services in Cleveland.

No one can properly explain what the integration means in practical terms because the lingo is so confusing — "suppression apparatus" equals "fire truck" with this crowd — but here's what the plan boils down to: more ambulances, fewer rescue squads.

City officials are calling the integration an enhancement of services. It's a move that's been adopted by other municipalities in the region and has been catalyzed by a shift in the nature of emergencies. According to Cleveland's division of fire, 70 percent of all calls are now for medical issues, not fires.

But fire union president Frank Szabo says that statistic is misleading.

"That's not because there are fewer fire calls," he says.

According to Szabo, the fire department responded to 50,000 calls with 45 companies in 1990. In 2012, they responded to 65,000 calls with only 38 companies.

Seven companies were closed in 2011, and the current integration has meant two additional closures — rescue squads #1 and #3. Those two combined for 7,407 runs in 2012, averaging more than 20 per day. A Local 93 Press Release states that the integration plan reduces the city's total number of fire trucks to 34, its lowest number since 1899.

"I don't call that an enhancement," says Szabo. "I call that a way to veil service cuts. They're downsizing the fire department."

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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