District debates plan to balance medical, fire call response | RecordCourier.com

District debates plan to balance medical, fire call response

East Fork firefighters working an apartment fire in Gardnerville.

A proposal to adjust how the East Fork Fire District balances the handling of fire and medical calls is under way.

According to the district, more than 87 percent of its calls are ambulance related. At times, personnel staffing have had to switch to ambulances to meet the demand.

As part of the district's 10-year plan, it is revising its standards of cover, which determines how it handles those calls, including dedicating a "40-hour" ambulance during peak times.

"Most days we are able to manage the calls with the current staffing model, however, it seems that we are seeing more and more situations which are demanding additional ambulance capacity," East Fork Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson said. "The 40-hour ambulance would be a start to easing that challenge."

As part of the district’s 10-year plan, it is revising its standards of cover, which determines how it handles those calls, including dedicating a “40-hour” ambulance during peak times.

The district board is scheduled to discuss the final document at their 1 p.m. Aug. 15 meeting.

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Representatives of the district's employees are encouraging residents to come to the board's 1 p.m. Tuesday meeting to speak at public comment. The plan is not agendized and board members won't be able to respond or take action.

East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said the document describes the service area, critical risks, capabilities, performance objectives and measures in the district.

"Equally important to the preceding is recognizing that the safety of our personnel must be a priority," Carlini said. "A priority which can't be ignored and one which should not be compromised for the sake of meeting response time objectives. As the financial status of the district improves, staffing must be a strong consideration."

East Fork Professional Firefighters Association President Paul Azevedo said members are concerned by the definition of cross-staffing, apparatus and representation of the district's fire stations in Insurance Service Office ratings which impact homeowners' insurance rates. 

The majority of East Fork's stations are unmanned volunteer stations and their membership has decreased to a point where they are almost unable to respond in any capacity.

"The ISO rating doesn't account for this and may give the public a false sense of fire protection," Azevedo said.

Carlini agreed the number of volunteers has declined significantly over the years. He said the district is working on a program to recruit volunteers who could free up firefighters.

"Volunteer personnel will hopefully play a key role in the logistical needs of incidents and the district in general," Carlini said. "The district is attempting to re-tool the volunteer program but faces some significant challenges."

Carlini said there's more to meeting the ratings than whether all the fire stations are manned.

"The American Heart Association tends to consider response time for emergency medical services," Carlini pointed out. "The International Association of County Manager's standards attempt to relate service levels in the form of a ratio between the population of the area served and the number of responders available. Lastly, ISO, serves as an overall report card solely on fire protection services, but includes water supply and dispatching."

Azevedo said the standards are a move in the right direction for the district, but said he believes the public should be more involved in the process.

"We are hopeful the people will take notice and bring their safety concerns to the forefront," he said.

if you go

What: East Fork Fire District Board meeting

When: 1 p.m. Aug. 15

Where: 1694 County Road, Minden

More info: http://eastforkfire.org

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