Nearly two years after Bruce Sandbergs wife asked him to put up Christmas lights inside their North Valley home, he wont take them down.

We’ve left them up ever since because they represent her, Bruce said. They are a little light that shines.

He is also reminded of his now-deceased wife, Francesca Sandberg, in the love songs he plays on his guitar.

A bitter memory is triggered by the siren of the passing ambulance from Phoenix Fire Station 50. On the morning Francesca died, that ambulance never came for her.

Francesca, 53, was recovering from COVID-19 when she took a turn for the worse on the morning of December 31, 2021. Bruce said she had trouble breathing and heart palpitations.

A 911 call recording shows Bruce asked for the ambulance, and the dispatcher said it was on the way.

Only a fire truck came.

According to a wrongful death lawsuit that Bruce filed, even though Francesca had symptoms consistent with a cardiac event, the firefighter and paramedics on board failed to perform an EKG, refused to call for an ambulance, and encouraged Bruce to transport his wife to the hospital by private vehicle.

Our expert, that my attorney found, stated that my wife would have had a 95% chance of survival if she would have gone in an ambulance, Bruce said.

Instead, Francesca went unconscious in Bruces truck during the drive, and the emergency room staff was unable to revive her.

I didn’t realize it until it was too late what needed to be done, Bruce said.

As the ABC15 Investigators followed Bruce’s story for more than a year, dozens of other people told ABC15 they had similar complaints. They claimed local fire departments – usually Phoenixs – responded to 911 calls in their fire trucks. They claimed the firefighters sometimes refused or dissuaded people from taking an ambulance to the hospital despite their medical emergencies.

In an ABC15 story airing last November, Phoenix Fire Chief Michael Duran said, “Our policies are to take people to the hospital when it’s appropriate and deemed necessary,” and “If a patient asks to go to the hospital, we are to transport them to the hospital.”

Days later, an assistant fire chief told ABC15 they want to find and fix issues.

Nine months later, the Phoenix Fire Department tells ABC15 that all firefighters have gone through mandatory training on Arizona state law prohibiting the denial of ambulances and the requirement for EMS crews. A fire captain also said paramedics are now required to get medical direction from a doctor in all high-risk refusal situations, like if someone who has abdominal or chest pain said they wanted to drive themselves to the emergency room or not go at all.

Phoenix ambulance transport rates have increased since these changes took effect, according to the Phoenix Fire Department. There is an 18% increase in hospital runs, meaning about 40 more people a day are being taken to the emergency room so far in 2023 compared to daily averages during the 2021/2022 fiscal year.

Bruce settled his wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Phoenix for $1.65 million, without the city admitting any fault.

He tells ABC15 it still bothers him not knowing if those firefighters were ever disciplined after Francesca’s death.

These people are earning a salary because we pay our taxes, Bruce said. If we want our first responders to be good first responders, some of the laws need to change so that they can be, and that they’re not given a free pass when things don’t go their way.

The widower also wants stronger guarantees of patient rights, which is why he continues to speak out.

We don’t want this to happen to anyone else, Bruce said.