Eugene-Springfield emergency crews handle calls with the same staffing they had in the 80s

Eugene-Springfield emergency crews handle calls with the same staffing they had in the 80s

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- In the course of 30 years, the number of on-duty firefighters and paramedics hasn’t changed much for the Eugene-Springfield Fire Department. They operate with about the same staff as they did in 1985, said Lane Professionals Firefighters Association president Mike Barnebey.

The same can’t be said for their response calls, which have risen around 700 percent since the 80’s.

“The national standard for the National Fire Protection Agency said we should have four people on their fire engine, fire truck, and we currently have three,” said Barnebey.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Lane County has seen almost a 30% increase in population from 1980 to 2012.

Barnebey said there are only six 24-hour a day ambulances covering the over 350,000 people in both Springfield and Eugene.

 “It's a huge concern for the citizens because when we reach capacity - there aren't any more firefighters, there's no more ambulances to provide that service,” said Barnebey. “That's when the times get delayed and response times get extended - and there's potential harm in that."

Officials said that merging the two departments in 2007 saved the cities a combined $1.5 million. The money saved allowed them to keep their current staffing levels, said Barnebey. 

Without a bond levy in the works, staffing could remain the same for some time.