SPOKANE, Wash. -- Spokane Fire’s Alternative Response Unit is about to get a major expansion.

As part of the ARU program, two-person crews respond to less serious emergencies. Firefighters say it is all about better safety and efficiency. They not only save lives, but also your tax dollars. And soon, they will be used more than ever before.

The ARUs are a work in progress. In 2015, they started being used on calls involving heart attacks and strokes, but on a limited time frame. Money issues meant they were only used during normal business hours.

KREM 2 On Your Side learned the ARUs will be soon operating around the clock. Starting in early 2017, they will be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It all has to do with a huge grant received by Spokane Fire. The department just got money to hire 50 additional firefighters.

When those new employees start, there will be a shuffling of the deck. Some senior firefighters will then be shifted to working on the ARUs allowing the program to expand while guaranteeing a better response to all types of emergencies.

In numbers from 2015, Spokane Fire said the ARUs were able to handle 55-percent of emergency calls coming into the department. In other words, more than half of the emergencies in Spokane did not require the use of big fire engines. This frees up those rigs for huge emergencies should one happen.