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District Fire Chief Jerry Rhodes said one of his units on duty that night had no idea about the turmoil unfolding a few miles away, in part, because they were likely sleeping due to the 24-hour-long shifts they typically staff.

Rhodes said the district’s crew, including one paramedic and one emergency medical technician, received the plea for help at 1 a.m. — about 21 minutes after officers first began rushing to the scene.

Denver Health Paramedics, which had two ambulances on the eastern side of Denver that is closest to Aurora, got its call to provide support three minutes after Cunningham. One of the units was eight minutes away.

West Metro Fire Rescue also got a similar call to send medical support — 15 minutes after the Cunningham request.

Medical teams that were first to arrive appeared to deal with the wounded as they came upon them, which meant first handling the moviegoers who made it outside. That left other severely wounded patients inside the facility.

While fire officials in Aurora declined to comment about how they responded, Deputy Chief Chris Henderson told reporters after a brief memorial service Wednesday night that the firefighters did an incredible job.

“The lives that were saved that night. That’s the comfort you take from this,” Henderson said.

Scot Phelps, an experienced paramedic who works at an emergency management academy in New York, said it was clear that the lack of ambulance transport was a problem in Aurora. He said that could be due in large part to the structure of modern emergency systems, which he said are poorly funded, leaving few ambulances readily available.

Before the aid call went out to the other agencies, officers repeatedly implored dispatchers for more medical support and bemoaned the resources they had at their disposal. At one point, they also asked for an accounting of what resources were on the way.

“To be honest with you, sir, I don’t know an exact count of ambulances,” one person said. They added that two more ambulances were getting dispatched then.

Over the span of 10 minutes, officials mentioned multiple times the situation of a child who they could not evacuate from the theater and needed rescue. About 15 minutes in, one officer asked whether he had permission to take victims with his car.

“I have a whole bunch of people shot out here and no rescue,” he said in a hurried tone. The response came immediately: “Yes, load them up, get them in cars and get them out of here.”

At 18 and 20 minutes in, police coordinators repeated their calls for more medical assistance. At 27 minutes, an officer was still reporting that they were loading patients into the back of patrol cars. “Any ambos we could get would be nice,” he said.

Thirty minutes into the chaos, an on-scene commander made a final, exasperated plea. He asked about Cunningham’s resources and whether another private company in the area — AMR.

“Anybody else that’s in the area that we can contact?” he asked. “Maybe Cunningham? Somebody that we can get a hold of? AMR? Anybody?”

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