Fire departments in Kosciusko County frequently rely on each other for mutual aid in emergencies.
During Tuesday’s Warsaw-Wayne Township Fire Protection Territory meeting, Assistant Chief Aaron Bolinger presented the fire department’s monthly report, highlighting incidents of mutual aid.
Bolinger said WWFT went to four structure fires in February, with three of those “actually in our areas.” Warsaw received help eight times from surrounding fire departments.
“The reason I want to discuss a little bit about that is, do you realize that we do receive help from all volunteer fire departments from around us? And it is getting a little more difficult for them to respond,” he said. “At one structure fire, one of the surrounding departments responded with one member in their responding apparatus, which now that is usually just a pump operator.”
Looking at the count of overlapping incidents for February, Bolinger said they just started tracking those over the last couple of months.
“Just showing you how busy we actually are,” he said. “You’ll notice that it runs anywhere from 24% to 28% every month that you have more than one of your fire stations out on multiple calls at the same time.”
On Feb. 22, Bolinger pointed out the numerous calls. “On that day, our fire crews actually left a fire, which was a mulch fire, to go to a structure fire, and then during that time, EMS took a couple of calls by themselves and we had off-duty crews take care of another EMS run. So, just wanting you to understand how active your fire stations are,” he said.
In another call, on Feb. 7, Bolinger said WWFT responded into another fire department’s jurisdiction at the request of EMS because that day, the fire department actually did not take three of their own calls.
“They didn’t have people available to do that. And on Feb. 7, our fire engine from Station 2 actually turned around in Whitley County. That’s how far out they were providing assistance. So, just kind of giving you guys an understanding with what we have to work with coming in to help with us, and the demands of the volunteer service,” Bolinger said.
Warsaw Mayor and WWFT Board member Joe Thallemer asked about assists from other departments for WWFT. Bolinger mentioned that WWFT assisted North Webster on a structure fire, and WWFT received assistance from Claypool once, Leesburg twice, Pierceton twice and Winona Lake three times.
On the mutual aid system in Indiana, Bolinger said fire departments help each other out.
Under new business, WWFT EMS Chief Chris Fancil requested permission to pursue a grant from the K21 Health Foundation to purchase an extended warranty plan for all the Autopulse devices in the county. Autopulses are mechanical CPR devices. The overall cost of the three-year extended warranty plan for all 17 platforms is approximately $67,575.
Fancil said a little over a year ago, he asked for permission to apply for a K21 grant, which was received from K21, and “we’ve basically changed the entire way we do cardiac arrests in the community, with Lutheran EMS’s assistance and their buy-in and belief in this process.”
Regarding cardiac arrests, he said, “What we look for in that is how often we get pulses back in a cardiac arrest and then how often these patients survive.”
In 2019, based on figures provided by Lutheran EMS, he said they got pulses back 22% of the time and had a 9% cardiac arrest survival rate in the entire Lutheran EMS coverage area.
In 2020, “We, just our department alone, utilized the Autopulse device 24 times. We got pulses back 11 times, so we had a pulse return rate of 42%. So just in six months of using this device, we actually improved that pulse return rate by 20%. And then we actually had six patients go home – which doesn’t seem like a lot, but really, out of that 24 times we used it, that means we had a survival rate of 25%. So we went from nine to 25 in that six months of utilization and changing the way we do things based on science,” Fancil reported.
So far in 2021, he said they’re sadly above those figures.
“We’ve already had 14 cardiac arrests this year. We’ve deployed the Autopulse each of those times. We’ve gotten pulses back nine of those times, so that means we’re up to 64% return of pulses, and we’ve actually had five of those patients go home, which, if you look at that, then we’re at 36% survivability of cardiac arrests,” Fancil said.
Countywide in 2020, he said the Autopulses were used 62 times.
“I dare say with the grants we received from K21 in recent years, it’s probably the most utilized funds that we’ve gotten from them. We’ve used them more than the other stuff,” Fancil said.
He stated he was asking the WWFT Board for permission to, on the Board’s behalf, ask permission from the Kosciusko County Fireman’s Association to be the grant submission entity, or otherwise the holder of the grant, for that three-year extended warranty on the Autopulses, as well as for the batteries and chargers.
“The reason I do that is because a lot of these departments don’t have any money to afford if the Autopulse would stop working or if the battery were to fail,” Fancil said.
A battery alone costs $825 and has a life of about three years.
Of the 17 platforms, Thallemer asked how many does WWFT own. Fancil said three, and the other 14 are deployed around the county.
The extended warranty plan costs about $3,975 per platform. With 17 platforms in the county, that totals $67,575. Fancil said he was planning to apply for a K21 grant for the full amount as some of the county fire departments don’t have the ability to even pay for a percentage of that.
“A lot of these folks – in addition to what Aaron talked about with volunteerism – financially, we’ve got some brother departments that are really faltering financially, so we’re trying to do what we can to keep this running,” Fancil said.
Thallemer said if the grant is awarded, it was important the Board take a look at it and see what any match may be and look to see if there were any consideration from the other departments to assist.
“I think this is one of the greatest things you guys have ever done, to be quite frank with you. If you save one life. But the technology on these things, they’ve changed the way you guys do business,” Thallemer said. “I’m very supportive of this equipment. I just want to be certainly careful and mindful of the Territory’s dollars … and spread that (financial) burden, if possible.”
The Fire Territory Board gave Fancil unanimous approval to move forward in applying for the grant from K21.