SPOKANE, Wash. – Stroke is the leading cause of death in Washington, and when a victim suffers from one, every second counts. That is why Spokane Fire is taking a new approach to assessing and treating stroke patients at the scene.

In the course of just a few seconds, Alvin Fisher became part of an alarming statistic.Fisher was one of 10,000 people in Washington State to suffer a stroke in 2015.

“I can remember struggling, trying to push myself up with my arms, and nothing was working,” said Fisher.

A fast response by fire crews saved Fisher’s life and it turns out he was in very good company.

Faced with an increase in stroke cases, Spokane Fire started treating every medical emergency call as a potential stroke situation.

A few years ago, the department started measuring the blood glucose levels of people in all emergencies. Instant results allow crews to then alert hospitals if someone is in fact having a stroke. This gives doctors an extra heads up to prepare for treatment as soon as possible.

“We’re getting oxygenated blood to the brain, so it’s huge in terms of time,” said Mike Lopez with SFD.

As a result, firefighters said stroke victims have received emergency surgery within 45 minutes of the initial emergency call. This had led to a spike in successful stroke recoveries.

Here in Spokane, 72% of stroke victims eventually go home from the hospital. Not only is that above the state average, but Spokane firefighters said it is vastly better than just a few years ago.

“The paramedics and EMTs can do what they really do best: evaluate, treat and transport in a rapid manner,” said Lopez.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘Criticize the fire department,’ but if they came to your home, you know what they do,” said Fisher.