There’s more to the men and women behind the red fire engine combating hot flames. Under the heavy yellow coats, helmets and boots there are emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
Whenever you call for emergency services, you may be surprised to see a Kingman Fire Department truck pull up. But those firemen are also trained EMTs, and some are trained paramedics who can help save your life.
Every time a KFD truck rolls through town responding to a call, it carries two certified EMTs and one paramedic.
EMTs are certified professionals who can perform basic life saving techniques such as CPR, clearing the airway and bleeding control.
Paramedics are more advanced EMTs. On scene, they are certified to do much more than EMTs can do. Paramedics can use the cardiac monitor, administer drugs and have advanced training on clearing the airway.
“We both work together all the time, so it’s not like you’re just going to get one without the other,” said Genaro Herrera, a KFD engineer and certified paramedic.
Herrera became a paramedic because there’s a lot more a person can do with that type of certification and can play a significant role in changing the outcome of someone’s life while on a call.
“It doesn’t happen very often but that’s truly the rewarding part of it; to see an actual difference with what you’re doing,” Herrera said.
About 80 percent of the calls the department gets are medical related. Every two years EMTs and paramedics must renew their certification. Throughout their career they continue their education to be up to speed with new medical equipment and lifesaving techniques.
The calls EMTs and paramedics respond to don’t always end on a good note. Curt Schrade, an acting captain and engineer, says he tries to bury the bad calls they go out on.
“The injuries are so traumatic. They were innocent victims (caused) by someone else’s bad decision making,” Schrade said.
For the battalion chief, Roger Dixon, his most memorable experience ended on a good note. During a call he responded to, the victim wasn’t breathing and his heart wasn’t beating. They brought him back and managed to get him to breathe on his own again.
Weeks later while Dixon was at a restaurant, he received a hug from the daughter of the man he saved.
“Those (calls) aren’t as common as we like,” Dixon said.
These tough situations can take a toll on the responders, but they have each other to find consolation and help if needed.
Recently, KFD won the Billy Goldfeder award for health and safety. The department implemented a peer-to-peer mental health program where they can go to each other and talk about what is troubling them.
“We see the worst of society every day,” Dixon said.
Over time, the department had seen they already had been talking about the issues they have been exposed to on a day-to-day basis, so it was easy to start the peer program.
“It’s hard to talk to someone who doesn’t do this for living,” Dixon said.
The conversation has always been there in the department, Dixon said. Now they are encouraging the conversation and recognizing that they’ve been there to help their peers all along.