John Muhr


One of the most asked questions we hear from people regularly is, “Why do we send the big red engines to medical calls?” Well, the simple answer is, serious medical emergencies require more than two medical personnel and we do not want to waste precious time waiting for the added fire crew to respond.

The Fire Department responds to nearly 6,400 calls for service annually, responding from three strategically located fire stations throughout the city. The majority of our 911 calls (76%) are for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Currently, we respond to all emergency medical calls with two fire units, an ambulance and a fire engine. Two personnel manage the ambulance while three firefighters staff the engine as an engine company.

Most of the fire department personnel at CCFD are Paramedics. This allows us to have five highly trained fire personnel to manage the critical calls we come across.  In the event of a non-life-threatening type medical call, the fire engine crew can be returned to service to respond to other calls while the ambulance crew treats the patient. If it is a serious medical emergency, then time is critical for the person’s survival. Such serious emergency medical calls include heart attacks, chokings, child births, drownings, and strokes.

Serious medical emergency calls necessitate the five personnel, and then some. If we had to wait for the added engine and additional medical personnel to respond, it would waste precious time that is critical if the patient’s heart stops. In addition, because medical emergencies sometimes occur in hazardous environments such as on a freeway or in busy intersections, having a two-unit response in hazardous environments provides for increased safety of patients, fire department personnel, and bystanders. Most cities in California incorporate this same response model. 


When Cathedral City Fire Department units are not available due to other calls for service, the next closest fire department unit will be dispatched. The assisting units are either an available Cathedral City Fire Department unit, or one from the other regional fire agencies like Palm Springs or Cal Fire, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. This automatic aid practice in Riverside County has been in place for decades and puts our community members’ health and safety as our top priority.


Fire engines and trucks are vital tools we use to combat fires, but they also carry large amount of other medically necessary equipment that can be deployed independent from having an ambulance on scene.


So, the next time you see or hear your Cathedral City Fire Dept. engines and ambulances rushing to an emergency, you can rest assured that the emergency will be handled timely, efficiently, and with the wellbeing of those involved as our priority.

Your safety is our business.