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“Ride to Care” Benefits Citizens and EMS System

Oct 25, 2018

Nearly 50 “rides to care” so far in 2018 have been arranged by Spokane Valley firefighters. The innovative program launched in the greater Spokane Valley in August 2017.

Ride to Care is an option firefighters can present to patients who call 911 with a less serious medical issue such as general weakness, illness, minor cuts, abrasions, leg or foot pain, or insect bites. The patient can choose a free ride to a designated urgent care center rather than incur the expense of an ambulance ride to the hospital and emergency room costs.

By connecting the right patient to the right treatment at the right time with Ride to Care, the strain on the overall EMS system is reduced. This means valuable EMS resources including fire engines and ambulances are available for higher priority emergencies and reduces the number of patients with minor medical issues in emergency rooms who could instead have all their needs met at an urgent care center.

Ride to Care is coordinated by Spokane Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP) with funding from federal and state grants and private sources. It launched as a pilot program in the City of Spokane in January 2017 and expanded to the Spokane Valley Fire Department service area in August 2017. During the 2017 pilot period, Ride to Care had 203 encounters with 192 clients and provided 315 rides. Ride to Care diverted individuals from higher-cost services (ambulance and emergency rooms) to more appropriate lower-cost services, reducing the cost of transportation and medical services by 61 percent per individual diverted. The pilot program avoided medical and transportation costs of approximately $77,115. Given this initial success, Ride to Care became a regular SNAP program in January 2018.

Here’s how it works: when a citizen calls 911, the response remains the same. Dispatchers collect the information from the caller and choose an emergency medical response based on the apparent severity of the medical problem: a single fire engine with no ambulance for the least serious calls, up to multiple fire engines and ambulances for a serious cardiac problem or stroke. Firefighters screen the patient at the scene and, when appropriate, offer the patient the Ride to Care option. A person with a less serious medical issue like a broken toe or general sickness, is offered an option to get a free ride to urgent care instead of the hospital. If the patient chooses urgent care, a SNAP-contracted vehicle is sent to pick them up and later take them home, with a stop at the pharmacy if needed. The choice of going to an urgent care facility isn’t required, and anyone who wants to go to the hospital in an ambulance can still do so. Participating Valley urgent care clinics include CHAS and Providence.

Although the number of clients served during the pilot year was relatively small, Ride to Care provided a unique contribution toward reducing low-acuity emergency room and 911 use, which made up approximately 24 percent of all medical 911 calls in Spokane in 2017. Clients received services (same-day transportation to urgent card services) that otherwise would not have been available to them, and were highly satisfied with the care received by participating in Ride to Care.

So far in 2018, a total of 339 ‘rides to care’ have been arranged by firefighters in the City of Spokane and Spokane Valley. Of these referrals, 208 are unduplicated (meaning the clients had not previously accepted a ride to care).

Emergency medical service (EMS) incidents account for more than 85% of Spokane Valley Fire Department responses each year.

Did you Know?


  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

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Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”