City fire chief denies choosing money over saving lives - 8 News NOW

City fire chief denies choosing money over saving lives

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Chief William McDonald defends departmet in news conference Tuesday Chief William McDonald defends departmet in news conference Tuesday

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas Fire & Rescue is fighting allegations it is choosing money over saving lives.

A new report shows city fire crews are responding more often to wealthy neighborhoods and leaving inner-city areas to the private ambulance service American Medical Response.

The city fire chief says that is not the case.

AMR paid for this report after the city cut back the number of calls private companies could respond to.

The report examined zip codes across Las Vegas.

Zip code 89134 is in Summerlin. It is primarily white with higher numbers of insured people. The report shows that Las Vegas Fire & Rescue responded to more than 60 percent of those calls.

In 89110, which is on the east side of the Las Vegas valley, the report found that firefighters respond to 17 percent of calls. That neighborhood is mostly Hispanic and is not as wealthy.

Wanda Staubs has lived in a home on the east side of the valley for 50 years and she has watched then neighborhood change.

"I tell people I live in little Tijuana," Staubs said.

Staubs says in an emergency, firefighters should never hesitate to respond.

"I feel like all of us should be treated the same way, not because one of us is poorer or richer or white, black or whatever," Staubs said.

The report commissioned by the city's private ambulance provider alleges the Las Vegas firefighters are focusing on areas with higher collection rates, resulting in "higher risk for city residents."

It goes on to say the city appears to be delaying calls to AMR in wealthier neighborhoods.

"The accusations that have been made in the last couple of days have been completely false," Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Chief William McDonald said.

Chief McDonald says he hasn't read the AMR report, but says fire crews do not show preference to any valley neighborhood.

"We respond to 100 percent of the calls. We treat every patient with respect and courtesy," McDonald said.

McDonald cited his department's own billing report, saying delay times are down and that they are helping fewer people with private insurance.

"The answer is no. We're never going to make money on the services we provide, but that is not our mission," McDonald said.

For Staubs, if there is any truth in the AMR report, it needs to be fixed.

"That is, I think, very wrong to everybody," Staubs said.

She wants to know the fire department would be ready to respond when she may need them.

AMR declined to go on camera Tuesday about the report, saying the data should speak for itself.

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