Valle Vista folks unhappy with fire department’s response time

Crews from Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District respond to a recent fire in north Kingman. Residents of Valle Vista held a meeting in August about NACFD’s slow response time to medical calls. (Daily Miner file photo)

Crews from Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District respond to a recent fire in north Kingman. Residents of Valle Vista held a meeting in August about NACFD’s slow response time to medical calls. (Daily Miner file photo)

KINGMAN – A group of Valle Vista residents met Aug. 15 to discuss service from the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District and to find out why response time for medical calls can take up to 35 minutes.

In the past, fire personnel responded within three to five minutes, and would call for an ambulance if needed, said Barry Van Stockum, who attended the meeting conducted by private investigator Michael Boone at Valle Vista Community Center.

About 75 people showed up to express their displeasure with the new dispatch policy, and were told not to worry about it, Van Stockum said in an email message to the Daily Miner.

“We think because Eric Berg is back on the board and we have no board members left from here, they give all the calls to the place he works,” Van Stockum said. “Conflict of interest, maybe.”

Berg, a supervisor at American Medical Response ambulance, was appointed in April to replace Vic Riccardi, former NACFD board member from Valle Vista who was forced to resign over work performed on a district fire truck at his auto repair shop in Valle Vista.

Sue Wilkin, who was also forced off the NACFD board for issuing and delivering a check for the work at Riccardi’s shop, said AMR tries to get an employee on the board and then tries to “take over the district as time goes by.”

She cited a recent instance in which a resident with a heart condition was denied assistance from a paramedic at the Valle Vista fire station. The resident was hospitalized and received a pacemaker, she said.

“It took approximately 35 minutes for the ambulance to get to the gentleman’s home with his residence being only two blocks from the fire station,” Wilkin said.

“The main problem is Kingman Dispatch is deciding what level of medical care we are entitled to. They are not qualified to make life and death decisions for us. We pay taxes and are entitled to have appropriate care regardless of what dispatch thinks they know.”

Tim King, interim fire chief for NACFD, said the Valle Vista meeting was primarily a “political rally” for recalling Berg and Carl Hays, who were appointed to the board by Mike Collins and Jim Bailey.

The meeting was led by Boone, who brought up the same complaints he brings up at NACFD board meetings, King noted. Those include a “conspiracy” over the $500,000 purchase of a building at 2600 Northern Ave. and issues with Hays’ residency.

NACFD calls are handled by Kingman Dispatch, which switched to “priority dispatching” in 2016 whereby dispatchers determine the level of priority based on their conversation with people calling 9-1-1.

The policy frees up advanced life support crews to respond to heart attacks, seizures, strokes and other medical conditions in which every second of time is critical to the outcome, King said. Those calls take priority over nonemergency transports.

“Priority dispatching is simply putting the right resources to the right use at the right time,” Kingman Fire Chief Jake Rhoades said. “It’s national protocol based on the reporting party to get that resource there.”

Kingman Fire Department signed a user group agreement with Northern Arizona, Golden Valley, Pinion Pine and Lake Mohave Ranchos fire districts for dispatch services, and as such, the level of service to which they agreed, Rhoades said.

They don’t respond to “alpha calls,” or calls with lower emergency or acuity levels, he said. Those calls are dispatched to AMR.

King attended the meeting to curb any “misinformation” about NACFD not responding to calls or not staffing the Valle Vista station. It’s staffed with an EMT and paramedic 365 days a year, he said.

“There are certain calls where we need to go there immediately,” he said. “The goal is to make crews available in Valle Vista for emergency calls instead of waiting 30 minutes for the closest service altogether.

“I know they expect us to drop everything to go to their house just because we’re there. They don’t understand we’re trying to use our resources for the betterment of the community.”