Albuquerque Fire Rescue is overwhelmed with calls for service and is asking the public for help. According to AFR Chief Paul Dow, “Albuquerque Fire Rescue runs more calls than the entire state of New Mexico combined.”
With 109,746 calls last year, AFR is the busiest fire department in the country per capita. One of the most common calls are down-and-out calls, where someone sees someone lying on the street appearing as if they need help—sometimes passed out or unconscious, often the homeless—and calls 911.
Last year, they had 9,124 of those calls. That’s up from 3,881 just five years earlier—an increase of 135 percent. AFR has now started a new campaign asking people before calling 911 to make sure the person they’re calling about wants help and not just sleeping.
The other overwhelming call is sick calls, which turn out to be nonemergency situations. “That’s the number one call that we responded to last year. Over 12,000 sick calls in the city of Albuquerque. We want to make sure the public understands that just because you arrive at the hospital in an ambulance, it doesn’t mean you’ll get seen by a doctor any sooner,” Chief Dow said.
When firefighters and paramedics are answering these calls, they can’t answer other more urgent ones. They’re asking citizens to be more cognizant of what 911 is really for.
The department has enacted a number of programs to help those who call 911 frequently. They say the programs are helping reduce calls, but they still need more help from the public.