PUEBLO, Colo. - The Pueblo Fire Department answered more than 27,000 calls in 2016. The calls for service have been growing about six percent each year for more than a decade.
"He was kind of what we call a frequent flyer," fire engineer Ryan Moran said taking about a homeless man named Tim.
Two hundred calls for service in 2016 alone were made for Tim. Moran has responded to calls for Tim for the last four years while working with the Engine 1 team.
"In the course of the last couple of years he had started getting sick," Moran said.
When people in the community saw Tim possibly having a problem, they would call.
"Which is fantastic that people want to help in that way, but Tim didn't necessarily need 200 calls last year," Moran said. "More often than not he was just as content to stay at his camp and just hang out."
Calls for service for the Pueblo Fire Department increased 160 percent since 2000.
But the number of staff members is the same as it was 27 years ago.
Chief Shawn Shelton said the department has handled the volume so far, but there are times when units aren't available.
"We're going to have to start, at some point, prioritizing those calls and deciding which ones deserve a quicker response than the others," Shelton explained.
He said some of those calling for emergency response may simply not know who to call.
"The sheer number of people need healthcare and are maybe limited by not knowing where to go," Shelton said.
Seventy-two percent of the department's calls are for medical problems, and while some are life threatening, many are dialing 911 for things that may not actually be an emergency.
This year the department won't be responding to Tim's 200 calls, Moran got him a ticket home to his family.
"Not everybody you see on the street needs a 911 call, but they might just need an ear to hear what they actually need," Moran said.
Calls for service are expected to increase another 55 percent in four years. One option the department is looking at is to add trucks or vans that would be staffed with fewer EMT's to handle non-emergency calls.