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LFD lays out plans for its ambulances

Ambulances being held in inventory by Lawton Fire Department can provide medical aid to firefighters, but administrators say they also could be used to transport firefighters to the hospital.

And, in future years, that transport service could be extended to others, but only if the City Council decides that idea is something it would support.

The use of two ambulances in the fire department's fleet came before the City Council last week, not for any decision but for discussion about exactly what the department's plans were for the vehicles. While Fire Chief Dewayne Burk said he has long supported the idea of providing emergency services to civilians, those two ambulances now are restricted to use by his firefighters and only when they need medical services on site.

The discussion was initiated by Ward 3 Councilman Caleb Davis, who said he has received numerous questions about the vehicles. Council discussion ended last week without any vote, but Burk was directed to bring back specific data for the council to consider, including responses to residential questions.

Burk said the fire department has a long history of responding to emergency medical responses (EMRs) and, in fact, makes more EMR calls than fire calls. He says  and other fire chiefs have said  firefighters almost always are the first on scene to emergencies and frequently stay to help ambulance crews, work provided without cost because there is no mechanism that allows the city to recover any fire department costs when responding to EMR calls.

"We typically arrive 1 minute to several minutes before ambulances," Burk said, adding his firefighters often do on-scene assessments in preparation of victims being transported and that is why he supports the idea of a fire department-operated ambulance service. "I personally believe we should move toward that."

Previous council public safety committees have explored that proposal, but the idea hasn't moved beyond discussion, in part, because of the expense. Burk said he isn't the only fire chief who has looked at the idea of ambulance service in his department.

"I inherited the project," he said, explaining at least two other fire chiefs have been among those who wanted to explore the idea of incorporating ambulance service into fire services as a way to increase services to the community and the department already has expanded its EMT-related training (the department now has several paramedics).

The department has continued to raise the bar, Burk said, of the addition of two used ambulances to the fire fleet. Those ambulances are being used exclusively for fire ground rehab of firefighters, meaning providing emergency services to firefighters at fire scenes.

Davis said the council approved the most recent ambulance purchase specifically for the safety of firefighters, adding the ambulances are an important tool when personnel fight fires in the summer. When it is hot, vehicles with air conditioning are an important way to allow firefighters to cool down, but Davis said he has been told the department sometimes has vehicles on scene without working air conditioning.

The Lawton Constitution

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