Denver Changes Ambulance Policy

DENVER --

After 7NEWS started asking questions about why it took 17 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the scene of a house fire where a woman and her two children were critically injured, Denver Health said Friday that it is changing its policy.

Denver Health had a standing policy not to dispatch an ambulance to all structure fires, just a paramedic lieutenant who would assess the situation and then request an ambulance.

But on Friday, Denver Health said, "Effective immediately, both a paramedic lieutenant and an ambulance will be dispatched to all structure fires reported to Denver Paramedics."

The fire at a home at 455 South Elliot Street broke out early Tuesday morning.

A paramedic supervisor was on scene within seven minutes. But firefighters, who pulled a woman and two children from the burning home, revived them on the front lawn, but then had to wait for ambulances to arrive.

"While the life-saving support necessary was on the scene within seven minutes, the Denver Health ambulance needed to transport patients to the hospital did not arrive until approximately 15 minutes after being dispatched. The response time in this case was too long," Denver Health said in a news release.

Denver Health said it conducted an internal review and will change its practices when responding to reported structure fires.

"We know how important our response times are, we diligently monitor them and we will continue to do so. While there is always room for improvement, we know that our response times are typically within the standards set by the city," Denver Health said.

"Finally, we would like to formally acknowledge the life-saving measures provided to this family by the Denver Fire Department. Their professional response to this tragic fire is to be commended. We regret that the response time of our ambulance overshadowed what should have been a proud moment for the Denver Fire Department and our emergency response system," Denver Health said.

The victims -- 47-year-old Patricia Garcia and her children, 15-year-old Diana and 7-year-old Juan, remain in critical condition. All three have severe damage to their lungs and are on breathing tubes.

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