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New faces in the ranks

Fort Dodge Fire Department adds paramedics, EMTs

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Ben Williams, one of the recently hired Fort Dodge firefighters, right, shakes hands with Fort Dodge Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter at the Fort Dodge Fire Department Monday night.

The Fort Dodge Fire Department is ready to assume full responsibility for ambulance service in the city and surrounding areas with the addition of 11 people to its ranks.

The City Council approved the new hires on Monday.

The department will assume the responsibility for the ambulance service now provided by UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center on July 1.

Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter said Monday that incorporating the ambulance service into the department is a major transformation similar to the change from horse-drawn fire apparatus to motorized trucks.

“I would say this ranks right up there,” he said.

“I couldn’t be more excited with the people we brought to work for the city,” he said.

On Monday, Terry Evans, a longtime hospital employee, was hired to fill the new position of emergency medical services division supervisor.

He will be in charge of treatment protocols, training and quality control. He will split his time between the hospital on Kenyon Road and the firehouse at 1515 Central Ave.

Evans’ starting salary was set at $46,950.16. He will start working for the city today.

The council on Monday also hired seven people to serve as civilian paramedics and emergency medical technicians — EMTs. Paramedics have a higher level of training.

The new civilian paramedics and EMTs will not be required to crosstrain as firefighters.

The new paramedics are Jack Fitzgerald and Craig Johnson.

The new EMTs are Taylor Brierly-Althof, Brian Egemo, Matthew Nahnsen, Abigail Sturgeon and Kyle Wenger.

Also, three new firefighter/paramedics were hired. They are Nicholas Ruhland, Anthony Ward and Benjamin Williams.

The addition of those people boosts the department’s roster to 46 members.

The ambulance service transition was announced by hospital and city officials on May 14.

It evolved from an emergency medical service study commissioned by the hospital and the City Council in February 2017. Fitch & Associates, of Platte City, Missouri, was hired to do the study.

The firm’s report, released in October 2017, gave high marks to the system in which the Fire Department and the hospital worked together to provide emergency medical care. It did recommend that a committee look at ways of improving the system.

The hospital has been providing ambulance service since 1958.

The Fire Department has been involved in emergency medical care since 1931, when it acquired an oxygen inhalator and the firefighters received training from a local doctor.

For decades, the hospital’s paramedics and the firefighters responded together to medical emergencies in the city. The Fire Department responds to those calls with a fire truck staffed with firefighters who are crosstrained as firefighters or paramedics.

In 2012, the Fire Department began providing ambulance service to supplement the hospital’s service. Fire Department ambulances are used when the hospital’s units are all busy. They also respond with the hospital’s ambulances when there are emergencies with multiple patients to treat.

Ambulances will still be stationed at both the firehouse and the hospital after July 1. The units based at the hospital will handle calls west of the Des Moines River, including Barnum, Moorland, Otho and rural areas west of Fort Dodge.

The units based at the firehouse will handle calls east of the Des Moines River, plus Coalville and rural areas north of the city.