Third rescue added - Officials hope to reduce 
wait times, cut outside help

Third rescue added - Officials hope to reduce 
wait times, cut outside help

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Town and fire officials will put a third rescue vehicle into service starting Feb. 15, a move intended to realign staff to more readily meet modern safety needs and address increased demand for increased service.

Asked about the plan this week, Mayor Charles Lombardi said he’s been “kicking it around for a while,” particularly as calls for rescue service have continued to climb and needs on the fire side have diminished with greater fire safety standards and technology.

“Right now it’s become a grave concern,” he said.

There were a total of 606 rescue calls last year where North Providence needed outside help from surrounding departments such as Pawtucket, Smithfield, Lincoln and Johnston, said Lombardi. Rescue calls account for some 80 percent of the total calls for service to the fire department.

“My concern is our taxpayers had to wait an additional five to 10 minutes for a rescue truck,” he said. “As the public safety director, I’m just going to address that, it concerns me.”

Under this new plan, he said, those 600 people won’t have to wait for service.

Lombardi said his one concern with this idea was that no one loses their job through the change, and that goal will be achieved with this shift only in assignment changes to move safety personnel to rescue vehicles.

“That’s where the demand for service is,” he said.

Taxpayers will not need to spend the $180,000 or so it would cost for a new rescue vehicle, he said, as the town already owns two spare rescue trucks. In a connected move, the town will also shut down one of its four fire engines, he said, with Chief John Silva tasked with deciding which one to take off the road.

“This is at no cost to the taxpayer,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done to ensure our taxpayers the best possible public safety services available.”
Silva told The Breeze he thinks the shift in resources “is good for the town and the department.”

“We just have to restructure, it’s good for the sustainability of the town,” he said. No one can deny that the trend is going toward more medical calls, he said, particularly with rising drug problems and increased needs in schools.

Silva said he’s happy that staffing will remain the same, with manning added to one truck. Currently it looks like the town will be redeploying the people on Engine 3 in Marieville, he said.

“We’ve become more of an emergency service provider, not just firefighting,” said Silva.

The overall impact of fires has been reduced through various codes, regulations and in-home sprinkler systems, he said. The town’s fire prevention division has done a great job helping to bring about a “heavy decline” in fire response needs, he said, as has been the case across the country.

There’s nothing saying the town can’t revert to the old system if needs change, added Silva, but the current trend is not showing that will happen anytime soon. Last year’s rescue numbers increased by 200-300 calls, he said, requiring calls to other towns and longer response times.

The typical rule of thumb is that adding a new rescue means buying a new vehicle and hiring eight more firefighters to cover four shifts, said Lombardi. In this case, the vehicle is already in place and the eight workers will simply be moved to rescue.

“We won’t spend one penny and hopefully we’ll make more revenue,” he said.

Towns have a right to bill for rescue calls, he said, which can add up to significant revenue over the course of a year.

“We know by accident we’re going to derive more revenue by providing the rescue service ourselves as opposed to relying on outside departments to come in,” he said.