Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 8, 2009

Family displaced by fire

Medical personnel refuse to check firefighters at scene

By MIKE FLETCHER

A family of four is without a home after flames tore through a garage and home in the 500 block of East Walnut Street early Thursday.

No injuries were reported and Kokomo Fire Department Chief Brad Myers said the American Red Cross was called in to help the four people displaced. Myers did not release the names or ages of those individuals.

The fire, which is under investigation, started around 5 a.m. in a vacant and unsecured garage, then spread to the home. The heat from the flames also caused damage to another structure at 215 Longview Drive, Myers said.

Firefighters did have a brief delay when medical personnel on the St. Joseph Hospital ambulance refused to set up a rehab station, which is designed to check the firefighters’ vital signs at the scene after they exit a fire, Myers confirmed.

“We’re investigating the incident and will have it corrected very soon,” said Randy Morris, city director of operations.

The mandatory health measure was put in place by the National Fire Protection Association to ensure firefighters have adequate rest, hydration and caloric intake during hot, heavy work at fire scenes.

After being reportedly refused by St. Joseph staff, firefighters called the Howard Regional Health System ambulances, but they were too busy on other calls to respond. The fire department was then forced to call a private ambulance service to the scene.

Morris said St. Joseph Hospital and Howard Regional ambulance services have routinely conducted the checks, adding he didn’t know why this happened.

“This is not St. Joseph Hospital being investigated, it’s the specific people at the scene,” he said. “It was very unusual, and that’s why were looking into it.”

Calls made to St. Joseph Hospital were not immediately returned.

The new standard recognizes the leading cause of firefighter deaths — cardiac-related events. Almost half of the on-duty firefighter deaths are from heart attacks, which is almost twice the number of police officers who die on duty from cardiac events. The deaths tend to occur either during, or immediately after, incidents that require heavy work, according to the NFPA.

• Mike Fletcher is the Kokomo Tribune crime reporter. He can be reached at (765) 454-8565 or mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com.