East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts recently announced the promotion of six firefighters to firefighter-paramedic. The six firefighters attended paramedic school through REMSA/UNR in groups of two while still working as firefighters with East Fork over the last three years. All six of the firefighters: Jeff Cates, Matt Smith, Roby Safford, Clayton Peterson, Steve Koontz and Zac Pedersen graduated with a GPA of 3.6 or greater from the year-long program. Firefighter/Paramedic Jeff Cates was his class’s valedictorian and recipient of the Todd Hellman award. Firefighter/Paramedic Roby Safford was his class’s salutatorian and recipient of the Todd Hellman award while Matt Smith was the recipient of his class’s Todd Hellman award. The Todd Hellman award is given to one student in each class for “demonstrating dedication to learning and paramedicine as a profession, by consistently displaying a positive attitude in class and encouraging fellow students to succeed.”
Most people attend paramedic school with the hopes of becoming a firefighter. They paid their own tuition, using their own time off to attend classroom, hospital and ambulance time that equates to 1,291 hours while still working their positions as firefighters with East Fork. East Fork’s Board of Fire commissioners approved management’s plan that reimburses the employees a percentage each year they remain with the Districts to encourage them to stay with East Fork and not leave for other fire agencies.
“The new skills these firefighters learned have already been put to the test,” said East Fork Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson. “At least three people are alive today thanks to the efforts of these firefighters.”
Cates saved a choking victim at a local restaurant that was unconscious using paramedic level skills. Safford and Cates were commended by the staff at Carson Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Department for their work on a pediatric cardiac arrest while Peterson, Smith and Pedersen have successfully revived cardiac arrest patients. While not all of these patients survived to discharge, they were able to be seen by their family in the hospital. Peterson and Cates delivered a baby.
East Fork responds to more than 5,000 calls for service each year with 80 percent of them medically related.
“East Fork’s goal is to get a paramedic at every patient within 8 minutes, 90 percent of the time, something that has been accomplished for the last two years,” Fogerson said. “East Fork does this with four paramedic equipped fire engines and four paramedic equipped ambulances supported by dispatchers who provide pre-arrival instructions, deputy sheriffs who provide CPR and a dedicated first response of volunteer firefighters on high priority calls.”
“The effort put forth by these six individuals is outstanding,” said East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini. “Especially when you consider that they completed a full year of training on their own time, continued to work, and still found time for their families, who all equally contributed to their success.”
East Fork currently has 59 personnel trained as paramedics and intermediate emergency medical technicians serving in a cost saving dual role as firefighters and fire officers as well, along with its eight volunteer departments.