Budget cuts have resulted in the Phoenix Fire Department’s elimination of one of two ambulances in Ahwatukee Foothills.
The change went into effect yesterday with Rescue 38, stationed at Station 38 at Warner Road near 50th Street, going out of service, but stored at the station.
While the number of ambulances assigned to Ahwatukee Foothills was cut in half, the three advanced life support engine companies staffed with paramedics, plus a ladder company, stayed the same.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio was unhappy with the changes, but understood the department’s need to make the budget cuts.
The ambulance cuts were part of the recently approved city budget, which included the elimination of two full-time and one part-time ambulance for an estimated savings of $2.2 million over the next 15 months.
“It’s never easy to shut down any emergency service, even when call volume is low,” said Chief Bob Kahn.
The elimination of Rescue 38 leaves the centrally located Rescue 43 at Chandler Boulevard near 40th Street as the only ambulance for the 80,000 people spread out over 35 square miles in Ahwatukee Foothills.
One recommendation DiCiccio made was that Rescue 38 will stay in the station, although unmanned, so that it would be available in an emergency.
Also cut was Rescue 57 near 16th Avenue and Dobbins Road.
Assistant Chief Todd Harms said the action was based upon call volume and the availability of a backup ambulance nearby.
“Wherever you look, the ambulances are running eight to 10 calls for transport each (24-hour) shift,” said Harms. But in the Ahwatukee Foothills area Rescue 38 and 43 had about three calls each, a day, some of the lowest call volumes in the city.
Now that the ambulance has been mothballed, but still available at Station 38 for an emergency, Harms said fire officials will closely watch the situation in the months to come.
“We’ll evaluate this month by month and look at the call volume and the stats for out there and see what the guys tell us,” Harms said.
“The elimination of these two ambulances will have an impact on the system, because we are taking two ambulances out,” he said. “But the strength of the system is that Rescue 32, while it is about four or five miles away (near 40th Street and Baseline Road), is still in a good position to provide service there.”
The Phoenix Fire Department has seen budget cuts over the last three years, totaling $45 million.
The most recent city budget originally called for the elimination of six engine companies, plus a ladder company. But with firefighters leading the way on wage concessions and the council’s expansion of the sales tax onto food, the cuts were reduced.
DiCiccio continued his call for basic changes in worker benefits to cut down the high cost of labor, which averages around $100,000 per employee in wages and benefits.
“Unless we make structural financial changes we will constantly have this problem and it all revolves around labor costs,” DiCiccio said.
Ahwatukee Foothills Fire Coverage
5002 E. Warner Road
Hazardous Materials 38
4110 E. Chandler Blvd.
Ladder Tender 43
15402 S. Marketplace Way N.E.
Brush Truck 46