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Why Does The Fire Department Respond To Medical Emergencies?

Fire trucks are part of the cacophony of sirens that respond to an emergency. And if you’ve been part of one, maybe you’ve wondered why the fire department even responds when there are no flames involved.

We’ll look at why does the fire department respond to medical emergencies and what they do while on the scene.

Why does the fire truck come before the ambulance?

A fire truck will arrive on any scene before anyone else, including the ambulance. In the US, Fire stations are spaced out according to standards and are often free to respond without hesitation.

But that’s nowhere near the only reason.

7 Reasons Why a Fire Department Responds to a Medical Emergency

In 2022, 75% of all fire department calls were non-fire emergencies.

Adding Life Saving Value

The most valuable thing that a fire responder provides are skills that an EMT response team doesn’t. 

Say someone is locked in a room and is having a health crisis. The fire department has the tools and skills to make a quick entry.

The same can be said about vehicle accidents. It’s the fire department that deploys the Jaws of Life to rescue trapped people. And they prevent and fight any vehicle fires that might break out.

Firefighters Have Medical Training


Responding fast doesn’t mean much unless a firefighter knows how to administer first aid.

Firefighters have medical training because it’s their job to fight fire monsters and save lives. The first aid training includes CPR and defibrillation.

In many cases, they’ve also received basic or advanced EMT training.

The History of Medical Care & Fire Services

In the 11th and 12th Century CE, the Knights of Malta began assisting the injured, poor, and sick on the battleground.

As time marched on, the group would respond to a castle invasion on horseback to put out the fires caused by the enemy using pitch (naptha).

The symbol of the Knights of Malta continues to appear on firefighter uniforms around the world.

Needed Numbers

Some emergency events require multiple people to provide assistance. Firefighters respond as a team with numbers, and they provide extra muscle for a medical emergency.

For example, a morbidly obese individual in a health crisis will require the help of more than one or two people. 

Fire Stations Everywhere


Fire departments operate using tax money, which means they serve the people in their area. Therefore, it is more economical to have stations in every district than to set up ambulance services.

A fire response team’s physical location allows them to respond to a scene faster. 

Fighting Fires Is Not the Only Priority

Crazy, right? But, the fact is, the frequency of fires has dropped significantly in modern times (thanks to better building codes and preparation). But, you can’t just disband fire departments, either, because there are still fires (that happen in the worst of times).

But, you do see more paramedics on fire response teams these days. You can train firefighters to be paramedics, but it rarely works the other way around.

What do firefighters respond to most?

Firefighters respond to medical emergencies far more often than they go fight actual fires. That is the reason that many firefighters have cross-trained and become emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Fills in the Gap

Especially in big cities, there is a shortage of paramedics. First aid certified firefighters have the skills to stabilize a patient while waiting for an ambulance. 

Why do you even need ambulance services?

While many firefighters have EMT training, they have no way to transport patients and those in crisis. They still have a big red truck meant to fight fires, not rush people to the emergency room.

In some districts, the fire department also operates its own ambulance service.

Crowd Control

Emergency scenes are chaotic and require clear heads to prevail. That’s where firefighters come in.

The big red trucks with ear busting sirens and bright lights have a way of clearing the way for emergency personnel to respond. 

Oh, and the high water pressure hose has a way of making a rowdy crowd less rowdy. (in places where that is legal)

Why does the fire department respond to medical emergencies?

  1. A fire department has the training to deploy certain pieces of life-saving equipment.
  2. Most firefighters have EMT and CPR training.
  3. Sometimes you need multiple people with adequate physical strength in an emergency situation.
  4. You’ll find far more fire departments than posted ambulances.
  5. Some firefighters have paramedic training along with fire training.
  6. Fill in gaps in response times.
  7. Fire trucks make a way for other response teams.

FAQs about Why Firefighters Respond to Medical Emergencies

Why do firefighters respond to 911 calls?

Typically firefighters respond because they can get to the scene quicker than an ambulance and stabilize the situation.

What do fire departments respond?

You’ll find more fire departments than ambulance services. Most firefighters have medical training and can provide care while waiting for an ambulance.

Do firefighters give first aid?

A firefighter’s duty is to administer first aid to fellow firefighters and the public. While not all fire responders are paramedics, they do have some sort of medical response training.

How often do firefighters fight fires?

We mentioned how rarely a firefighter responds to a fire. In 2015, the average was 1 every 22 days. And the majority of those were not a catastrophic events. 

But, even if a fire happens twice a year, we need those fire departments near to respond quickly. 

Are all US firefighters paramedics?

Fire departments do not require their responders to become paramedics. But, you must be at least a trained and certified EMT.

Applicants with paramedic training will always be prioritized over those who aren’t. And most departments will support their firefighters in becoming a licensed paramedics.

Are paramedics the same as firefighters?

Paramedics respond to medical emergency calls and provide treatment and transportation.

The priority of a firefighter is to fight the fire and to be of assistance to the responding licensed paramedic. In some cases, the firefighter has paramedic training and stabilizes a patient while waiting for an ambulance to transport them.

By AlwaysReadyHQ Team

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Location: Atlanta, GA, USA

The AlwaysReadyHQ Team is made up of writers and editors with experience ranging from emergency paramedics to former FEMA policy writers to natural disaster reporters.

Our goal is to provide clear, concise, organized, realistic, and actionable information to help you and your family feel comfortable and ready for anything. Less scared and more prepared.

We only source from authoritative sources such as government agencies and industry associations to bring reliable information to directly to you.

Andrew Riley - Contributing Editor

Andrew grew up in a country known for earthquakes, volcanoes, and typhoons. But despite the chaos and destruction of natural disasters, he remembers the resilience and readiness of neighbors, despite a lack of official government aid. He hopes that his team of experienced writers bring a bit of that to all of AlwaysReadyHQ's readers.