(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) With emergency medical incidents taking up nearly 75% of calls for service, the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) is planning to redeploy some of its resources, Fire Chief Corey Smedley tells ALXnow.
Smedley’s AFD Forward plan is still being ironed out, but the gist is that by the first quarter of 2024 the department’s fire engines will get reduced from nine to seven and increasing smaller Emergency Medical transport units staffed by firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
“As a firefighter and as manager based on the needs of the community, we will put you in the most appropriate place to serve the community,” Smedley said. “Sometimes that will be on a fire truck, sometimes that will be on an emergency medical unit. It just varies based on the needs and resources we have to accommodate those needs.”
AFD’s calls for service saw 27,435 incidents in 2022. About 72% of those incidents were medical and rescue-related, while just 15% were fire alarm and fire-related.
Smedley wants to take away fire engines from Station 204 (900 Second Street) in Old Town North and Station 205 (1210 Cameron Street) in Rosemont. Just where the new EMS units and staff will be redeployed has not been determined, he said.
“What’s needed for the community, mainly, is our core functions,” Smedley said. “AFD Forward is a short and mid-term solution that we have the capability within our own purview to adjust accordingly to better serve our community, to help our workforce and in their working conditions. And, within our fiscal capabilities, manage our mission.”
Smedley said that no staff will be let go from the department, just redistributed, and that response times to incidents should not change.
“It also means my fuel costs will hopefully go down, my maintenance costs for heavy apparatus, a large apparatus will go down,” Smedley said. “The hope also is that we better serve our community and we are less reliant on mutual aid, we have better reliability of our own resources and we have to go to less hours for our workforce as in the collective bargaining agreement, and we are working very diligently to get there.”
Smedley was promoted to fire chief in 2020, after spending five years as the department’s deputy fire chief of emergency management. He implemented a restructuring in 2021, shifting AFD responsibilities and resources to stations around the city.
The move isn’t popular with the AFD union.
“Local 2141 does not support ANY cuts in the services our members provide to the Alexandria community,” said AFD Captain Josh Turner, president of IAFF Local 2141, the union representing the city’s firefighters, medics and fire marshals, in a text to ALXnow. “We as a union will proactively reach out to City and Department management to find a solution that will protect the interests of the community we serve. Cutting emergency services is never something we will support.”
So far, AFD Forward has been sent to the city manager’s office and AFD staff, the union and members of City Council, Smedley said.
The plan includes:
- Adding two additional life support transit units Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. to handle peak call volume
- Adding rapid response paramedics
- Promoting four new captains for the uniform watch office and 911 center, to help direct adequate resources to service calls
City Manager Jim Parajon should also expect a request for more AFD resources in next year’s budget, Smedley said.
“I’m going to ask for more,” he said. “The FY ’25 budget process is coming. I’ve already told the city manager’s office I’m going to be asking for more and more so that we can manage our mission.”
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