MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Firefighters in the City of Merced will soon be able to do even more to save lives during emergencies, thanks to a new rescue paramedic program that was recently approved by the City Council.
The majority of calls the Merced Fire Department responds to are emergency medical situations. In just the past year, they've had more than 6,400 EMS calls.
Merced Fire Chief Billy Alcorn says, "We have a very busy county. I think the ambulance provider in this area does an amazing job, but there's a lot of times when we're on scene first. 64% of our call volume is EMS related calls."
That's why Chief Alcorn is excited to be moving forward with the new rescue paramedic program.
The department's two current paramedics will now be able to use additional equipment and more of their skills to help save lives.
Merced Fire EMS Coordinator Mickey Brunelli says, "Upgrading to the rescue paramedic program allows us to provide EKG checks, use a cardiac monitor on our patients. We can start IVs. We can give medications that we couldn't otherwise do at the EMT level."
Brunelli says they will also be researching the possibility of training more firefighters to be paramedics or advanced emergency medical technicians.
And that's not all. The department is also adding mechanical CPR devices to its engines because they can provide high quality compressions without the human fatigue factor.
Brunelli says, "We've teamed up with Riggs Ambulance to put these devices into the field, and we're actually doing a study to identify the effectiveness of these devices and hopefully expand their use in the Merced County EMS service."
Firefighters will be trained in the coming weeks on how to use those mechanical CPR devices, and they should be out in the field starting in November.
As for the paramedic program, the department is now in the process of contracting with a medical director and finalizing its agreement with county EMS, but Chief Alcorn hopes it will be in full swing by January 1.