Kail Street fire prompts Buffalo Common Council members to question Rural/Metro

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — When Buffalo firefighters didn’t receive needed response from a requested Rural/Metro ambulance, they seized an opportunity to flag down a Twin City ambulance that coincidentally happened to be in the area. That’s prompting a new inquiry by the Buffalo Common Council.

Firefighters rushed to the scene of a Kail Street fire on Tuesday, successfully removing a man and his dog from a smoking home. Common Council members say that pleased the homeowner, but said he was less than satisfied with the only ambulance company allowed to dispatch in Buffalo.

“Again we are getting reports that Rural/Metro is late to the scene of an emergency where timing is absolutely crucial,” Joseph Golombek, who is questioning Rural/Metro with fellow councilmember Christopher Scanlon, said. “We deserve to know why there was a delay and what Rural/Metro is doing to fix this reoccurring problem.”

The Kail Street victim had burn wounds, and reportedly had issues breathing after the fire, prompting the need for an ambulance. However, it’s been reported in the past that Rural/Metro frequently doesn’t have available ambulances. Reports say response times are also poor.

“We have seen issues like this in the past and have attempted to address them with Rural/Metro,” Scanlon said. “Sadly, it appears as though response times have regressed in recent months, and it is unacceptable for this trend to continue.”

Scanlon and Golombek are calling for further inquiry and disclosure on the part of Rural/Metro to learn why an ambulance didn’t make it to the Kail Street victim. They also are calling on Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo Emergency Medical Services Board to review the inquiry’s findings and fine Rural/Metro if it’s deemed necessary.

A day after the fire, and soon after council members voiced their concern, Rural/Metro’s spokesperson responded, calling the incident a test of the company’s mutual aid system.

“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,” Mike Addario, of Rural/Metro said. “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.”

Rural/Metro officials say they’ll be reviewing the incident with Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield to flesh it out.

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