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A Night with Wisconsin’s Busiest Medic Unit

MILWAUKEE (JSOnline) – It’s been almost five hours without a call — an unnerving lull for the busiest paramedics in Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Fire Department’s MED Unit 5, an ambulance housed with Engine 36 near N. 27th St. and W. Capitol Drive, handles about 400 calls for help each month.

But as this summer day slips into evening, the overhead speakers remain silent.

The city’s firefighters —about 17% of whom are also trained as paramedics —know well the ebb and flow: One minute, they’re standing over a sizzling fish fry for dinner or playing pingpong; the next they’re racing toward a fire, or a kid who can’t breathe, or a man bleeding from a gunshot wound.

The Fire Department is working to increase the paramedic ranks — last year 88% of calls to the department were medical — and is incorporating paramedic licensing into its retooled cadet program. Some of the cadets will train at MED 5, giving them a taste of the busiest Fire Department ambulance in the state.