They're known for fighting fires and saving lives, but most of the Spokane Fire Department's calls are medical in nature, which is why they're rolling out new Alternative Response Units to respond to some calls.
Tuesday was the first day the ARUs went into service; the idea behind them is to dispatch smaller SUVs with a single paramedic to less severe incidents, cutting costs and freeing up crews for critical calls.
"It's set up to be a small version of an engine or fire truck," Firefighter / Paramedic Tim Loncon said.
Loncon is now a one-man crew responding to non-emergency calls around town in one of the department's ARUs.
"Calls such as minor scrapes, people complaining of headaches, toothaches, service calls from smoke detectors," Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.
From now on, you won't see a big rig respond to those kinds of calls; instead you'll see a white Ford Explorer.
"The purpose of this deployment method is to avoid sending larger apparatus which can cost upwards of $500,000 to replace, several dollars a mile just to operate," Schaeffer explained.
The smaller vehicles will respond to nearly half of the medical calls. The ARUs will be in service Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will respond to a service call within 10 to 12 minutes and go out on between 5 and 15 calls a day.
The department has three ARUs, with one based downtown, another on the South Hill, and one in North Spokane. Schaeffer said having these vehicles in place helps free up crews to respond to emergency medical situations, like a stroke or heart attack.
"We need those hands, we need those people in a very short amount of time to help improve the outcome of that patient," Schaeffer said.
And if an ARU responds to a situation and needs help, they'll call for assistance.
After six months in service, the fire department will make any modifications needed to the new vehicles.