Merced city firefighters look to improve paramedic services

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- In an emergency, seconds matter.

That's why the Merced City firefighters are looking into new ways they can help save lives.

"We want to provide the highest level of service to the citizens of Merced," said Merced Fire Chief Billy Alcorn.

Alcorn says the plan is still in the early stages, but they're looking into possibly getting more certified paramedics into the department.

That means firefighters would be able to provide more life-saving services while they're on duty.

"We can only respond at a basic level or EMT levels. Right now, we have two paramedics. And they can't operate to that higher scope," he said.

Alcorn says they receive at least 10,000 calls a year, and more than 60 percent of those are EMS incidents.

Mickey Brunelli is one of the two paramedics at the department.

He says if the department were to make the shift, he'd be able to perform live-saving tactics instead of your basic life support.

"As an EMT I can check your blood sugar and find out if it's low, as a paramedic, I can administer dextrose and bring your sugar back up so you can functions," said city firefighter and paramedic Mickey Brunelli.

This would also mean that firefighters could provide medical help during large scale incidents when ambulances are tied up, or in the event that a fellow firefighter needs medical attention while battling a fire.

Alcorn says they're still looking into several factors, which include either hiring paramedics or training the firefighters in house.

Of course, he says cost is another issue.

"Money for consumables, money for medications and things like that. Monitors. Things associated with all that. We'd have to contract with a medical dir. Which are all costs that go above and beyond what we currently budget for our EMS program," he said.

Action News reached out to Riggs, the ambulance company in Merced, however, they declined to comment.

Alcorn says the department is now working on a case study, which will later be presented at a later date.
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