Cleveland fire to begin integration with EMS

CLEVELAND - Cleveland Fire Department Rescue Squad #3 took an ill firefighter to the hospital Friday night. But on Monday, that squad will be replaced by an EMS unit. It's part of the city's integration of fire and EMS companies.

"We will be taking three rescue squads out of service as well as our technical task force rescue squad out of service," fire dept. spokesman Larry Gray said. "We will be bringing two technical rescue squads as well as five ALS units."

ALS units are advanced life support first responder units that Gray said will be located at stations in highest need areas.

Gray said 70 percent of fire calls are now medical in nature.

"We are strategically implementing more medical services because the need is greater," he said.

However, firefighters union president Frank Szabo is concerned.

""Less service, less safety," he said. "When a rescue unit can do everything that an EMS unit does and more including pulling people out of burning buildings, you can't replace a rescue squad with an ambulance and say it's the same level of service because the ambulance can't pull someone out of a fire."

Mayor Frank Jackson issued a statement Friday saying he is "committed to moving forward with the integration of fire and EMS to provide enhanced service to the community." The statement went on to say, "We believe this is the right step forward for our community."

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