VALENCIA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Fire departments across the state are battling staffing shortages and high call volumes. One New Mexico department said it’s being pushed to its limit.
“It is taking a toll on them; the call volume is beating them up,” stated Valencia County Fire Department Fire Chief Matt Propp.
Valencia County Fire Dept. said their staff are being pushed to their limits.
According to the agency, emergency call volume increased more than 50% in one year, and staff is now responding to about 35 calls in a 48-hour shift. Plus, with the department and local ambulance services understaffed, more of their units are having to help transport people to the hospital with up to three, fire unit transports a day.
“What makes us nervous on the fire department side is obviously our statutory obligation is to fire protection, so when we have our firefighters at the hospital on a transport, it decreases our fire protection level within the county,” explained Propp.
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The chief explained that there are multiple factors leading to the shortages, including fewer people applying to work for EMS agencies. The fire department is trying to address the situation by educating the public on what types of emergencies warrant a 911 call versus a doctor’s visit.
The Valencia County Fire Department said they’re also working on getting legislation passed to improve incentives for fire department retention.
“There are times in the county where we’re so busy that we are not providing an initial response to a 911 call, and that’s a tough position to be in as the fire chief. It’s a tough position to be in as an agency, but it’s real,” said Propp.
The fire chief said they’re working with the American Medical Response or AMR to prioritize calls and make their responses more efficient.