The role of firefighters in emergency response has grown over the years to include rescue, prevention and protection of property.

Of the 5,300 calls to the Cambridge Fire Department in 2010, only 53, or one per cent were structure fires.

Brad Churchill, station captain, says "Doing fire suppression is just a very small fraction of our overall incidents."

Like many other fire departments, Cambridge is becoming more of a rescue unit, trained to help when many others cannot.

Silvio DaSilva is the chief training officer with Cambridge Fire and he says "It takes years to develop and home those skills and that's part of what the growth of the fire service is about."

The Cambridge Fire Department's captain of public education is Damond Jamieson, and he knows the variety of calls that come in.

"Structure fires, there possibly could be a rescue involved in that and we also go to medical calls, vehicle accidents, we cover a big stretch of the 401."

In fact, last year Cambridge Fire was called to 429 collisions. On average that response happens in less than five minutes.

That means planning starts on the road, Churchill says, "Just maybe do a pre-plan based on our training about what each person's task is going to be once we get there."

The scene is secured by police and then evaluated by fire crews, and if necessary the rescue then begins.

Churchill says "We re-stabilize as we go and we communicate with the paramedics because we really want to get them in to the patient as soon as possible so that they can give the patient the best care possible."

The people involved in the incident are the priority for all emergency services, and that's where paramedics come in. Patients are their responsibility.

Coming up in part three: A first-hand perspective from the front seat of an ambulance.