City officials reviewing ambulance response to Kail St. fire

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- City leaders want to fine Rural Metro after they say the company’s response to a fire on Tuesday was “not acceptable.”

This comes just one month after a News 4 Investigates report found since signing a new contract with the city last year, Rural Metro has failed to meet response times for some of the most serious calls.

Dispatch records show at 3:53 p.m. Tuesday, first responders were called to a Kail St fire. It is standard practice to send an ambulance to the scene initially, even if injuries have not yet been reported. Rural Metro did not have an ambulance available, according to dispatch records.

At 4:00 p.m. firefighters called back to report there was a burn victim. Recordings show a Twin City ambulance was requested two minutes later.

“Yeah, we need a status of that ambulance with a man down at the corner, he’s having some trouble right now,” said fire crews at 4:10 p.m. on dispatch recordings.

Dispatchers replied, “They just updated us, he should have an ambulance there in a couple of minutes. They’re coming from Sheridan in Tonawanda.”

Two minutes later fire crews radioed back and said, “We had to commandeer a Twin City ambulance that went driving by. The other ambulance was going to be too far out.”

Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told News 4 it was actually the Twin City ambulance that had already been sent to the scene by dispatchers and fire crews may not have realized it was the one they were waiting for.

Twin City Ambulance said since January 1, 2016, it has responded to 30 calls in Buffalo to help the city’s provider, Rural Metro. Last year it responded to more than 70 of those calls.

“If a call comes in from another community, we first make sure we have enough resources to cover the areas we’re contracted to serve and if we have extra resources, we’ll send those units out,” said Terance Clark, the president of Twin City Ambulance.

Rural Metro did send a paramedic supervisor to the scene, who arrived 13 minutes after the original call. The City of Buffalo’s newest contract with Rural Metro requires life threatening calls to be answered in less than nine minutes.

It took 18 minutes for any ambulance to get to the scene, according to dispatch records.

Common Council Member Joseph Golombek called Tuesday’s response by Rural Metro “not acceptable” and calls on the city to investigate what happened.

“Somebody could’ve died, somebody could’ve had life-long injuries,” he said. “We still don’t know the final prognosis for the individual that was taken to the hospital but whenever you’re dealing with emergency personnel, whenever you’re dealing with ambulances, time is of the essence and one minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds could be the difference.”

Buffalo Fire Commissioner and Commissioner of Emergency Management Services Garnell Whitfield said they are looking into why Rural Metro did not have an ambulance available. He said they are reviewing the call volume and number of ambulances in service on Tuesday.

Rural Metro released a statement that said, “During the Kail Street fire, the emergency response mutual aid system was tested in Buffalo, and it worked. Yesterday, during a spike in emergency calls, we needed backup help from our partner Twin City Ambulance, and today in Tonawanda we were able to provide mutual aid in their service area. In the end, our goal is to make sure patients are treated and transported, and we are pleased that the mutual aid system worked the way it was designed. We will be reviewing this incident with the Fire Commissioner.”

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