Yuma, Arizona - What is the difference between a Fire Engine and a Paramedic Transport unit (ambulance)?

You might say that one is a lot bigger, can seat more passengers, and carries water and hoses to extinguish large fires, but if it involves an emergency medical response, there is not much difference. All of our units are Advanced Life Support (ALS) units. This means they each will have at least one paramedic on board, and both would have the same advanced life support equipment and medication administration capabilities. In fact, the biggest difference is that the Paramedic Unit is also designed to be able to transport patients.

Paramedics receive advanced medical training (approximately 2000 hours) to become certified, and are continuous training and evaluated to maintain their certifications. This is necessary for Paramedics to be the eyes, ears, and hands of the emergency room doctor. Equipment advances (like 12 lead heart monitoring). Also new capabilities (such as the Tox-medic for dealing with Hazardous Material and chemical or biological weapon releases or TEMS-Tactical Emergency Medical Support to work with law enforcement in “active shooter” situations) continue to be added our paramedic’s responsibilities.

We often are asked why a Fire Engine is sent on an emergency medical call. Emergency medical calls make up the majority of calls for service modern fire departments respond to. To make the best use of resources, equipment and personnel need to be able to do double duty. In addition, many procedures leading up to the transport of a patient may also be best handled with the extra personnel assigned to an engine company. Critical care tasking for cardiac arrest cases can also take additional emergency medical personnel.

A Paramedic Unit and a Fire Engine or Ladder Truck may also be dispatched because time is essential in these situations. Units may be coming from different geographical locations, and both may be sent to ensure timely service delivery. The goal of the Yuma Fire Department is to get advanced life support to city residents as soon as possible.

For more information about fire and injury prevention, contact the Yuma Fire Department Public Information Office at 928-373-4855.