As fire and EMS calls increase in Steamboat, city sees more cases of delayed responses
October 23, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There's been no mud season this year for emergency responders in Steamboat Springs.
The city's fire and EMS departments last month were unable to mount full and immediate responses to a pair of emergency situations because they received simultaneous calls for help that taxed area resources.
Fortunately, the delays in getting paramedics and firefighters to the people who potentially needed them did not have any dire consequences.
But the city's Fire Chief Mel Stewart said Friday there could be more substandard responses in the future if the department's call volume continues to rise and staffing isn't increased to keep up with it.
And Stewart has started submitting detailed reports on the incidents so the city’s elected officials are aware of the challenges the department faces when multiple people call for help at the same time.
"We've just been fortunate we haven't had any significantly bad outcomes yet from being short staffed," Stewart said. "These are good examples of why … we're planning on adding staff in 2020 and 2021 with a new station."
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The first delayed emergency response occurred Sept. 11, when firefighters were called to a report of a wildfire 10 miles west of Steamboat almost at the exact same time they received another call for a structure fire in another part of town.
Some off-duty firefighters had to respond from their homes due to the simultaneous calls.
Despite a delayed response, firefighters were able to extinguish the fire quickly and damage was limited due to the fact the blaze had been noticed shortly after it started.
The next substandard response occurred Sept. 16, when emergency responders were dispatched to two rollover crashes around the same time.
The first crash involved four patients and occurred at 8:45 p.m. about six miles west of Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40.
A man was ejected from a vehicle and had to be airlifted to a trauma center in Denver.
As emergency responders tended to that serious crash, they got another call about a rollover at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue
"The second call resulted in a substandard response of personnel and equipment and also resulted in a significant delay in response," Stewart wrote in a report about the response. "Fortunately, the person in the second rollover accident was not seriously injured …"
Steamboat Fire Rescue's call volume was up almost 20 percent last month compared to September 2016.
Year to date, the call volume is 1.5 percent higher than it was last year.
"I understand we've got budgetary limitations and financial limitations, but as time goes on, as long as our call volume continues to increase, we're going to see more and more of these incidents where we respond with inadequate or less-than-standard staffing, and we’ll have incidents where we have to say 'we can't get to you yet,'” Stewart said.