ON YOUR SIDE: RFD response to injured man raises concern

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Updated: 6/23 12:30 am
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - News 4 has obtained a REMSA memo saying a new Reno Fire Department policy could be risking lives. The memo lays out an incident where it took more than an hour for one man to be taken to the hospital. The memo says that delay was in large part because the Reno Fire Department did not want to respond to a call for help.

News 4 also obtained a Reno Police Department incident report that laid out how police had to ask a hardware store for help - because the fire department stood in their way.

It all relates to a man in medical distress in Lemmon Valley on June 17th. It began just before 4:00pm when Reno Police were investigating a suspicious vehicle. They found a man stranded in a boat attached to a truck parked in an empty lot. The man was unable to move because of severe back pain.

When REMSA medics arrived it was decided it was too dangerous to try and move the 6-foot tall 300-pound patient from the boat to the ambulance without additional manpower.  That is because the boat's edge was more than six feet off the ground; Manpower they asked for from the Reno Fire Department.

Reno Police also on scene called Reno Fire for help, nearly 30 minutes later Reno Fire Personnel still weren't on scene. The REMSA memo News 4 obtained says the Reno Fire Department had cancelled their response and requested REMSA's bariactric to unit respond.

Police were not informed and waited for the Reno Fire Department. When no one showed up, Reno Police Officers reached out to the Reno Fire Department again.

Nearly 45-minutes from the initial call a Reno Fire Battalion Chief showed up to assess the situation. He decided his crews were not available, and said Reno Fire Department would not call any other fire departments to help.

But why weren't fire personnel available? Two different documents News 4 obtained mentions a new policy within the Reno Fire Department. A REMSA memo stated, “[Battalion Chief] on scene said that at this time the department has chosen to stop assisting REMSA crews with lifting due to injuries encountered while doing so and REMSA not being able to subsidize the department in regard to the financial impact." The Reno Police Department incident report said, “Reno Fire had cancelled their response... they would no longer assist in ‘lifting’ patients."

More than one hour after Reno Police arrived on scene and called for assistance, the patient was moved into the ambulance by REMSA medics and Reno Police Officers.

According to the Reno Police report, the Reno Fire Department Battalion Chief watched and did not assist. In the REMSA memo News 4 obtained the Reno Fire Battalion Chief on scene was allegedly taking pictures of the incident because he thought it was "funny" to see police officers try to move the man.

In a memo sent to the President and CEO of REMSA regarding the Lemmon Valley Incident, a REMSA medic on scene said, “this chain of events resulted in a final scene time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, and left us all just shaking our heads regarding the blatant disregard for patient care and safety (from the Reno Fire Department). "

According to documents News 4 obtained, the patient was ultimately diagnosed with severe pulmonary edema - when fluid fills the lungs. He remained in the hospital five days after the incident.

The Reno Police Department report also says police asked a neighboring hardware store if they had a forklift that could help, but it was not available.

Numerous calls have been made to Reno Fire Department officials over the past three days for a copy of the new policy and comment on the situation. Reno Fire Department officials have returned our calls and talked to News 4 in general - but could not talk about this incident or the way it played out.  The Fire Fighters’ Union Leader also declined to comment.  A REMSA document we obtained say the Battalion Chief told REMSA officials that too many Fire Fighters were getting hurt when they helped REMSA lift patients - so they would not do it anymore.

News 4 is hoping to get an official comment from the Reno Fire Department on Monday to see why they would not assist the injured man.
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Firewife68 - 7/1/2014 7:38 PM
0 Votes
I wish Channel 4 and the rest of the media would report the FACTS instead of their opinions! Goes against their oath and duty to the public to REPORT not publish THEIR OPPINION....right? If they took the time to investigate and REPORT the truth the public might actually be informed as to all the details and be left to draw their own conclusions, but I guess people do not want the FACTS and TRUTH because the FACTS and TRUTH might require they think and just might make those in power look STUPID and wow, the public might not re-elect them!!! I am outraged by Channel 4 in not only printing a completely bias perspective and eliminating the FACTS, but also that they published the Battalion Chiefs personal info....to me this is defamation of character, slander, and invasion of privacy, plus puts a man's family in danger...he was doing his job as told by his superiors (who are now not backing him and making him the scape-goat)and he did and does his job well! Shame on you Chanel 4 for saying that you "report" accurate information to the public....Report the TRUE STORY...this was a priority 2 call, and RFD did the right thing by not helping REMSA in a LIFT ASSIST--per their mutual agreement(why not report there was a REMSA employee there that was petite who could not lift the man??) If it was a priority 1 call (the boat was on fire or the man was suffering from a life threatening emergency--pulmonary edema & being obese is NOT life threatening)RFD would have been there and had the man out b 4 REMSA got there! Don't blame RFD...blame Channel 4 for their bias "reporting"...if you want to know the real "facts" about the different priority calls, contact any working/in the field Fire Department personnel, not the "Office staff"! I back the Battalion Chiefs decision 100%

Rickerwill - 6/25/2014 11:55 PM
0 Votes
I don't know, Truth, but $41 Million seems like a pretty vast fund of money that went to the RFD last year. I am curious if it costs REMSA in excess of $100k for each one of their emergency personnel to be employed. If they are equally trained (in the medical emergency arena) and the only real distinctions are in response time and the infrequent occasion when more than 2 crew members are necessary, I could see diverting a bunch of that big ol' RFD budget to elimination of the inherent redundancies in these two entities. Seems to me the Reno taxpayer could save a bundle. I must be missing something because surely our elected officials would not want to waste our hard-earned money on superfluous duplication of essential services. Ummm, right? After all, out of 238 positions in the RFD, only 26 of them were paramedics in 2013. So, the fire calls in the City of Reno last year totaled 703 out of the 37,200 calls to which they responded. Does it seem odd that fire fighters go to fire calls only 2% of the time they are dispatched? Why do we have both fire trucks that go to medical emergencies and ambulances that go to the very same medical emergencies? I am just asking, not to be critical or cynical, but because I truly do not get it.

Rickerwill - 6/25/2014 11:33 PM
0 Votes
Truth, you seem quite defensive, but I am not sure you addressed my inquiry. On how many calls do you think 6 personnel are needed, instead of 2? Why does an enormous fire truck get dispatched to every medical emergency call, when we have MEDICAL EMERGENCY personnel and equipment under contract to address such crises? They don't load patients on that red truck for transport, do they? If there is not a fire call, wouldn't it make sense to utilize a more task-specific vehicle, like an ambulance? Again, if it is a question of response times, maybe we just need more ambulances strategically located throughout the Truckee Meadows to cut response times - not an entire department of duplicated effort from equally qualified and very well-paid EMTs (fire fighters) who add additional support that is most often not necessary. Doesn't it all seem terribly redundant and grossly expensive? On the other hand, if the RFD can do it all, why do we contract with REMSA at all? Duplication of effort and doubling (or more!) of the cost of services is the hallmark of government waste and union abuse of the taxpayer dollar. Who can argue against that reality?

Truthbetold - 6/24/2014 8:52 PM
0 Votes
Getinvolved- Please do more research and find that the Fire Chief cannot unilaterally make service changes without the express consent of the city manager. Any change to emergency response has to go to the top for approval and if you truly do see a copy of the new changes, it will have Clingers name on it. The fireman I have been told were not even aware of this call and therefore knew nothing was going on. The battalion chief was simply following orders (para-militaristic organization) from the powers at the top (Clinger). I'm sure that a full report will be given tomorrow at the city council meeting and thus everyone will know the entire truth and not allegations made by numerous sources, including news 4. Rickerwill, Chest pain is a very dynamic medical. Much like a cardiac arrest, multiple people are needed. Research what emergency scene care is needed and how much time you have to get going. Broken bones don't hold themselves when a patient can't help. Placing a person on a backboard because their hip is broken is more than a two person Remsa crew job. Seizure..... seriously? A large number of EMT's and Paramedics working for RFD are directly from Remsa, so qualifications are the same. It has been publicly reported by various sources that RFD arrives between 3-5 minutes before Remsa and initiates care for the patient. That pays for itself. You have a great idea: let's redirect the vast funds (not sure where you got that from) to Remsa who made nearly 32 million last year. Please educate us all how giving a privately owned company more tax payer dollars because they don't have enough! Really? When Remsa knew about this policy change and agreed to it a month ago, why didn't they up their daily personnel for anticipated lifting help? If a fireman for any reason gets injured while lifting, does Remsa pick up the tab after calling for assistance? No they don't and will never. Don't be so quick to judge if the facts are not all there.

Rickerwill - 6/24/2014 6:31 PM
0 Votes
We finally have heard of an instance where a fire crew could - and should - have played a significant role in responding to a medical emergency and the battalion chief refuses to provide service. Hmmm. Who can explain to me why a firetruck and full crew must be dispatched to every call for chest pains or a broken bone or epileptic seizure? Are the EMTs on the big red truck more qualified than the EMTs employed by REMSA? If not, why is that enormous truck dispatched with 3 or 4 well-paid public servants on board, if they are only to duplicate the expertise and efforts of the contracted ambulance attendants already on their way? If it is slow response times by REMSA, then let's redirect some of the vast funds that go to fire protection to the contract for more ambulances in more locations and more personnel. How many actual FIRE calls does the RFD go on each year in Reno? Anyone know?

fixer - 6/24/2014 4:58 PM
0 Votes
You can blame the union all you want but the union does not make this type of policy. This is an administration problem. The Fire Chief is the one to blame here. The Fire Chief and his staff are the people who make response policy not the firefighters. If the firefighters were allowed to respond to this incident by the management, they would have done what the could to help this man. You people are so blinded by your hate of public employees unions that you can't see the truth about this incident. And the fact that the department (read fire chief) won't comment about this is more proof that it is the Office of the Fire Chief that has the problem.

getinvolved - 6/24/2014 12:47 PM
0 Votes
The Reno Fire Department web site provides the internal disconnect with this story. The mission statement reads: "he Reno Fire Department will provide our citizens and visitors the best possible all risk emergency service in the protection of lives and property. Public health, safety and prevention education are key components of our mission. We are and will continue to be identified by our dedication and pride in outstanding customer service" (www.Reno.gov, 2014). Hmmm. Seems to be a disconnect in regards to this story. A problem is identified as a deviation from a standard. The promise in this example is the standard. If the facts of the story are true, then the Fire Department Leadership let this customer down. At a time when firefighters are fighting to retain employment, their supervisory leadership is taking opportunities to assist the public away.

Truthbetold - 6/24/2014 7:41 AM
0 Votes
NEWS 4, we're your National Enquirer of local media! Biased, one sided, half truths, HELL, we'll even make up something if it will make news!!!! It's no wonder why your viewer ratings are dropping!

b5551212 - 6/23/2014 8:36 PM
2 Votes
REALLY RENO FIRE DEPT. YOU GUYS ARE CHUMPS!!!!! and YOU ALL DESERVE PAY CUTS IF YOU HAVE SUCH AN IGNORANT LAZY BATTALION CHIEF LIKE THE JERK THAT STOOD THERE AND HIS LAZY FAT ASS WAS TAKING PICTURES!

Stepmonsterv - 6/23/2014 7:09 PM
3 Votes
The RFD doesn't care about life , safety, property or helping anyone but themselves. What other group can work 3 days a week and are paid more than 3 times the salary of the teachers that went to college for years to teach our children. Now to learn they can be impaired on the job and refuse to do the jobs they are grossly overpaid for - is appalling. All I can say is I'm glad I live in Sparks and don't have to rely on that sorry bunch of cry-babies to handle our emergencies. The police in the city work their entire shift, while there are times the fire department sleeps through a third of their shift. I used to have respect for them - but not anymore , with the exception of Sparks FD and Truckee Meadows FD.
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