Ashland Fire Department Under Fire – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Ashland fire chief says too many calls, not enough staff

Rescue personnel from Ashland Fire & Rescue and Jackson County Fire District No. 5 practice extrication. [Mail Tribune/ file photo]

Ashland Fire and Rescue Chief Ralph Sartain appeared before the Ashland City Council Tuesday and painted a picture of a fire department under fire.

Ashland Fire & Rescue personnel are often in the position of responding to overlapping calls — fire and medical calls coming in at the same time, Sartain said.

Ashland Fire & Rescue is the ambulance and fire service for the city of Ashland, responding to both medical and fire calls in the area. In addition, Mercy Flights assists with medical emergencies throughout the valley and responds to emergency rescue calls in Jackson County, Sartain said.

He said calls for service have grown faster than the department’s staff.

In 1995, Ashland had 21 firefighters and responded to 1,011 calls for service, Sartain said.

In 2021, the department had 30 firefighters, but responded to 4,785 calls, 2,079 of which were overlapping calls.

Because Ashland’s dual-trained firefighters and paramedics see patients from the point of contact to check-in at the hospital, firefighters often get stuck trying to balance two vital calls at once, he said.

“Our farthest recent call was from Ashland to Eagle Point for a cardiac arrest,” Sartain said.

The upward trend continues, Sartain said. As of Monday, the department already had 2,960 calls, with 1,655 overlapping so far this year.

“Which means we have one or no resource in the community for an additional call,” he said.

Seventy-one percent of those calls are medical, he said, while fire calls make up 8 percent of all calls. Ashland firefighters work 48/96 schedules: two days on and four days off, unless called for overtime.

In response to red-flag fire danger days and high numbers of medical calls, staff are working more overtime and, Sartain warned, their sleep patterns are being disrupted to an alarming degree.

He said the department needs to increase its minimum staffing requirement from eight firefighters per shift to 10 and to hire more personnel, a move Sartain has called for in the past.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.

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