DEL CITY, Okla. – Del City firefighters responded to more emergency calls in 2012 than ever before, according to fire department records.
The trend is a bit surprising, considering the population in downtown’s closest suburb, about 2,000 people lower than 2011.
In 2012, Del City FD responded to 3,344 calls.
“We do see cases where our guys are up all night, 24-hour shifts and they’re running non-stop,” firefighter Brandon Pursell said.
The Del City Fire Department hasn’t added staff in the past 10 years.
The population has, for the most part, remained steady while 911 call volume was up 8 percent over 2011 and up nearly 50 percent since 2002.
Part of the problem in Del City is that 97 percent of fire department calls are not for a fire.
The department responds to an increasing number of 911 calls for non-emergency incidents: cats stuck in trees, ear infections, stomach viruses.
The department responds every time they are called and the non-emergency situations are more common than ever.
“A lot of people are accessing the 911 system for non-emergency situations that could otherwise be taken care of without 911,” Pursell said.
The problem is not unique to Del City, municipalities across the country are serving an aging population, with first-responders who now respond to all kinds of incidents: medical, haz mat, fire, water rescue and more.
“We face a challenge because we’re trying to get our guys trained for all the things they need, but our training is limited because of our increase in response,” Pursell said.
Del City voters recently approved a bond issue that will pay for two pumper trucks and an aerial truck.
The department is also working to design two or three new brushpumpers.
The new equipment is much needed because of the increase in call volume.
Those specialized fire trucks are running more and more miles each year.