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 November 7, 2003
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Exclusive Investigation
Is There A Shortage Of Providence Rescue Squads?
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Workers say they do not have enough rescue companies to respond to the tens of thousands of calls that come in.
  Union officials say nearby communities have to cover for Providence fire rescue at least 7 times a day.
   They say that means an additional wait of 8 to 10 minutes for city residents.   and minutes can mean the difference between living and dying.
    Branch Avenue station... at least 14 runs a day, often more...
 .... And it's the same elsewhere in the city, often the calls come in bunches....
 "The stress level is unbelievable"
  In the calm of union headquarters, the president of fire fighters local 799 talks about the need to get to the scene, the need to beat the clock.
   Engine, ladder and rescue compnaies work together...always fighting time...make the rescue...get help to the victim or get the victim to the help.
 "You can probably go from one stressful incident to the next stressful incident without ever having that break in between them."
  The numbers tell the story.
 Last year, they were almost 5,000 runs for rescue one at the Allens Avenue station... a similar number for rescue two at Hartford avenue...
 More than 5,000 for rescue three at Branch Avenue, over 5,000 for rescue four at Atwells Avenue... And almost 6,000 for rescue five at North Main Street.
Total...almost 26,000 runs.
   "We definitely need two extra rescues. we are right on the cusp of needing a third rescue, but we definitely need two rescues right now."
    Surrounding communities were called into Providence last year for almost 24-hundred rescue runs...
 Topping the list, Cranston 796 runs, North Providence, 476,  Johnston, 413 and East Providence, 377.
 The average run time for a providence rescue is 4 to 6 minutes...an out of town run adds precious time.
 "Now you've gone from 4 to 6 minutes to possibly 14 to 16
   When an out-of-town recuse is called the Providence Fire department always sends the closest engine or ladder company to cover while the rescue in enroute.
 "And they respond to the incident and all they can really do is provide basic like support."
 Peters describes one instance in which an infant with trouble breathiung waited 21 minutes for an out-of-town rescue. the infant survived...
  But a heart attack victim who waited 14 minutes did not survive, perhaps because a Providence rescue was not available.
 The union recently rejected two contract offers from the city that included one additional rescue vehicle.
  "Those conrtracts were rejected due to numerous other issues in those contracts."
 "If they came right now and said we wanna give you two rescues, we would not be saying no to them."
  Fire Chief James Rattigan says he too would like to see another rescue vehicle, but the cost of manpower is a contract issue.
  The cost of adding one rescue is about $600,000 a year.
  Mayor-elect David Cicilline, however, sees the problem as a matter of public safety.
  He said the city needs two new rescues and he will address the problem as soon as he takes office in January.

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