Reporter: Lauren Compton l Videographer: Ira Quillen
Lynchburg, VA- From putting out fires to rushing people to the hospital, the Lynchburg Fire and EMS Department is slammed with emergency calls.
Lynchburg Fire Chief Brad Ferguson says the trucks and engines are running constantly now, and that leaves little time for maintenance or upkeep. But officials say part of what is causing this increase is the bigger problem.
"When you run 10, 12, and 15 calls a day on a medic unit. You are just busy," said Ferguson.
The department is so busy in fact compared to last year, Lynchburg has handled 1,600 more EMS and fire calls from January to April.
To keep up with the extra workload, the department is calling in help from other fire companies that are further away.
"They have to load up all their equipment transfer it to another apparatus and go from there. Even if it's a minute or a minute and a half, it's a delayed response. Every minute counts in this profession," said Matt Millner, master firefighter and paramedic for the Lynchburg Fire and EMS Department.
Fire officials say part of what is fueling this increase is more people are relying on the fire department for primary care.
"They are not going to see their regular physician, and they are calling the ambulance as a means of transportation to the hospital for random, daily events," said Millner.
Millner says people are calling 911 for things like chronic constipation, loneliness and an illness they have left untreated for too long.
"People who could have gone to the hospital several days ago are waiting, and waiting to go to the point where they are causing further damage to their bodies," said Millner
Fire officials say these types of routine health care calls cost the city thousands of dollars in fuel costs and maintenance. But by law, they cannot deny treatment.