Firefighters See Shifts: "Thanks to better building codes and education efforts, the number of fires across the country has plummeted in the past two decades. At the same time, the number of medical calls has risen sharply, a reflection of an aging population. And in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there is a heightened emphasis, especially in Washington, on dealing with biological and chemical hazards.
"The changing demands have altered the job and culture of firefighting, a profession steeped in centuries of tradition and extolled in books and films that chronicle heroic rescues from burning buildings. Because fire stations are located throughout communities and ambulances are often overtaxed, firefighters are increasingly tapped for medical duties. In more serious cases, they are called upon to stabilize patients until ambulances arrive.
"Some even wonder if firefighters should be called firefighters anymore."