South county station has an ambulance |

South county station has an ambulance

by Kurt Hildebrand |
East Fork Fire crew, from left, engineer Zac Pedersen, Capt. David Norvell and firefighter/paramedic Heidi Neilson man Station 4 in Topaz Ranch Estates on Monday afternoon.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

There’s a rescue unit in Topaz Ranch Estates, in addition to an engine and three firefighter-medics.

But that doesn’t mean that rescue is always going to be the first vehicle out of the station.

That’s because most of the calls in the Douglas County community — located about 20 miles south of Gardnerville — are for fires.

In 2017, East Fork Fire Protection District revised its standards of coverage after examining what sort of calls they had in each of the communities it covers.

“A majority of our calls that require transport occur in the (Carson) Valley,” Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson said. “Our outlying areas, TRE and Indian Hills, have a more significant wildland fire threat. We placed our three ambulances in the Valley while increasing staffing on our two outlying paramedic engines to three personnel.”

Fogerson said those three firefighter-paramedics generally take the engine out which has all the equipment an ambulance does, but can’t transport patients.

“The firefighter-paramedics begin care and prepare for transport while the ambulance arrives,” he said.

But when East Fork’s ambulances are unavailable or if someone requires immediate transport, Station 4’s crew will break out the ambulance.

“This deployment allows us to fully staff seven paramedic company’s full time,” Fogerson said. “Three ambulances are fully staffed and two additional can be crossed staffed by their paramedic engine.”

April 20 was an example of what can happen when there are a lot of calls all at once.

Fogerson said all three Valley ambulances were transporting patients to and from Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center when a vehicle collision occurred 6:44 p.m. on Highway 208 at Albite.

The most seriously injured person was helicoptered from the scene within 25 minutes.

Fogerson said Station 4 split the three-person company and took Engine 4 and Rescue 4.

“Rescue 14 was returning from Carson Tahoe responded and the battalion chief asked Mono for an ambulance due to the distances,” he said.

When firefighters arrived, they found three patients who were all out of the vehicles. They aided the motorists and worked to render the wreckage safe.

“Mono Medic 1 arrived on scene and took the other two patients to the Carson Valley Medical Center,” Fogerson said.

Since the Mono ambulance was there before Rescue 14

Covering all of Douglas County outside the Lake Tahoe Basin, the East Fork district battles geography and limited resources.

That’s one of the reasons submitted a request for a $1.8 million grant to the U.S. Fire Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The staffing for adequate fire and emergency response program is available to fire departments to increase the number of front-line firefighters available in a community.

“The fire district is hoping to be able to hire five additional firefighter-medics if awarded the grant,” East Fork Chief Tod Carlini said.

The grant period covers three years and pays for three-quarters for the first two years and 35 percent for the last year.

The district is obligated to retain the positions after the grant period expires.

“The East Fork Fire Protection District has not added a single new firefighter position for over 10 years, yet the district’s calls for service have increased almost 40 percent during that same period,” Carlini said. “Over that same time period, the district’s volunteers ranks dropped from over 100 volunteers to its current-day number of 50.”

In an effort to make up for the loss in volunteers, the district recruited 21 logistical and support volunteers.

Carlini said East Fork has 19 people a day to cover 675 square miles.

He said 87 percent of the 6,600 calls had last year were for emergency medical services.

Competition for the grant is fierce, with only 300 awarded nationally. Carlini said he expects to hear the results sometime between July and September.