Firestorm

A U.S. Forest Service firefighter. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

Every minute in the United States, an ambulance gets turned away from an emergency room because hospitals are simply too full. In Los Angeles, where the wait time in some ERs is as long as 48 hours, the entire 911 system is being challenged in ways that are alarming.

This film follows Los Angeles Fire Department Station 65, located in South Los Angeles, a neighborhood with a largely-uninsured and undereducated population. The LAFD handles all emergency medical services for the city of Los Angeles, and currently 82 per cent of the department's work is medical, rather than fire-related. Eleven hospitals have closed in just five years in LA, and the challenge of delivering more than 500 patients per day to a shrinking number of hospitals is overwhelming to the LAFD. With resources strained, and 911 being used for everything from heart attacks to stomach aches, LAFD paramedics have become virtual “doctors in a box”.

Directed and produced by Julie Winokur