In a new op-ed published over the weekend, ATR’s Patrick Gleason explains how unions are seeking to forestall needed pension reform with a new scheme to monopolize local EMS services. Gleason’s piece looks at how this effort to delay necessary pension reform will harm taxpayers and lead to diminished fire prevention services. 

ForbesGovernment Cash Grab Could Jeopardize Fire Preparedness Out West

After a 2020 that saw 10.1 million acres in the U.S. burned by wildfire, the second most since 1960, wildfire season is once again upon west coast communities. That, however, isn’t stopping California and Washington State officials from advancing a new policy that would reduce the number of fire engine fleets while saddling fire departments with responsibilities that have nothing to do with preventing, putting out, and mitigating the spread of fire. Such would be the result of Tacoma’s proposed takeover of EMS and ambulance services. 

Tacoma City Council Member Chris Beale explains how the city manager’s proposal to have the fire department takeover all EMS services, which are currently handled by a private company, will expand the department’s responsibilities: 

“The city is planning to take over Basic Life Transport Services (BLS) from the ambulance company AMR,” Council Member Beale told Grit City Magazine about the proposal. “In order to do that we would shift firefighters from fire engines to ambulances. We will also be adding a Behavioral Health Unit (to respond to calls involving people experiencing a mental health crisis).” 

AMR, the private company currently responsible for ambulance service in Tacoma, is staffed by professionals whose sole focus is providing medical care. Under the proposed fire department takeover of all EMS services, patients needing ambulance-facilitated emergency care in Tacoma would be treated by flex workers with both EMT training and firefighting responsibilities. 

Many are concerned that the proposal will translate into diminished fire and emergency medical services for Tacoma residents and visitors. That concern is justified, according to city officials like Council Member Beale, who confirmed last year that “the current proposed budget would lead to fewer fire engines.” 

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