The Sparks Fire Department will begin providing paramedic level emergency medical service (EMS) to residents and visitors in the northern portion of the City of Sparks, primarily served by Sparks Fire Stations 4 and 5. REMSA will continue to transport patients.
Paramedic level emergency care has been a long-term goal of the department, and with the support of the Mayor and Sparks City Council, is now a reality. The paramedic program was first proposed by former Fire Chief Tom Garrison in July, 2016. Since then, the Department’s EMS coordinator, Captain Ed McDonald, and others have worked to get the program operational.
The program will initially have Firefighter/Paramedics responding out of Fire Station 4 (1450 Disc Drive) and Fire Station 5 (6490 Vista Boulevard). The City’s long term goals is to have all 5 fire stations in the city staffed with paramedics.
The Sparks Fire Department participates in a two-tiered EMS response system. Responders from the Fire Department traditionally make up the first-tier response, with REMSA, the EMS provider responsible for transporting patients, making up the second tier. Under the two-tiered system, fire personnel often arrive on scene prior to REMSA and provide initial patient assessment, treatment, and stabilization before the ambulance and its crew arrive.
Last year, the Sparks Fire Department responded to nearly 14,000 calls for service. More than 80 percent were medical emergencies. As the number of EMS calls has increased, the Fire Department has also increased the level of emergency medical care it provides. For example, in 1986 EMS represented approximately 45 percent of the department’s total call volume. At that time, fire personnel were certified at the first responder level with skills in bleeding control, splinting, spinal immobilization, and oxygen therapy. By the year 2000, the percentage of EMS calls had increased to 74 percent of overall call volume, and EMS certification was upgraded to the Advanced EMT level.
As licensed paramedics, the personnel assigned to Station 4 and Station 5 will be able to administer a much wider variety of medications and perform more advanced airway interventions than Advanced EMTs. Additionally, paramedics will be able to use the cardiac monitor/defibrillator to its full capabilities, including the ability to obtain 12-Lead EKGs. The addition of these advanced interventions and skills will positively affect patient outcomes by providing paramedic level care as early as possible, regardless of which responders arrive on scene first.
The Sparks Fire Department has 15 paramedics and will hire five additional Firefighter/Paramedics. This reflects a growing trend in the fire service profession where the ability to provide emergency medical care at the paramedic level has become the norm, rather than the exception. As funding becomes available, Fire Station 2 (2900 N. Truckee Lane) will be the next station staffed with paramedics.