IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - It's was pretty dangerous on the roads after an overnight storm resulted in crashes Wednesday. Emergency crews, including firefighter paramedic Jeff Mccoy, said they scrambled to keep up.
"There's a saying in the fire house. 'We're 911, and there's no 912.' There's no one for us to call," he explained. "Sometimes you're going from call to call to call, without ever clearing the hospital, just because you're needed that much."
Paramedics say on days when the weather is bad and snow makes traffic accidents inevitable, they can have up to nine calls at a time. This high volume of calls leaves the Idaho Falls Fire Department's stations empty. Many wonder why the Fire Department can't hire more people, but Division Chief Dave Coffey said that's easier said than done.
"The simple answer is: give me more manpower. But when we don't need the manpower, those guys are sitting around and we can't utilize them to their potential," he said.
Coffey said the problem becomes a question of budget, which is what the station tried to fix with its hires during the overtime budget crisis. Those hires only brought the department up to state-mandated minimum capacity.
"To build a fire station, that's the cheap thing. To buy a fire engine, that's cheap. To buy an ambulance, that's cheap. To man those stations and vehicles, that's when the cost is incurred," said Coffey.
Paramedics said for now they can't worry about budget policy. They can only do their service to the community the best they can.
"You know, it is all about always being ready when someone needs you," said Mccoy.
The Idaho Falls Fire Department said it received 42 percent more emergency calls between 8 a.m. and noon. This was in addition to its normal volume of emergency medical calls.