By Ralph Echtinaw
The St. Louis Area Fire Department will receive a free CPR machine (called a LUCAS device) from Midland EMS this fall or early next year; a $20,000 value.
“Effective CPR being done with a human only lasts about two minutes,” said Fire Chief Bill Coty by email. “And studies show that due to fatigue the quality of the CPR decreases. The LUCAS device can perform excellent CPR for 45 minutes on one battery.”
So why is Midland EMS giving equipment to St. Louis? Because the SLAFD covers Jasper Township in southwest Midland County. Every fire department that serves any part of Midland County will also get a LUCAS device, Coty said.
“Currently we have one LUCAS device,” Coty added. “But we operate with two state-certified rescue (vehicles, and) the duty-officer-operated rescue often arrives on scene in Jasper Township many minutes prior to our station rescue. Therefore this Lucas device is needed and will definitely increase the chance of survival of cardiac arrest in our rural areas.”
(LUCAS is an acronym for Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System. EMS is Emergency Medical Service. And CPR is Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.)
Coty told the Fire Board that the department conducted 74 investigations during 2022, up from 21 investigations in 2021.
Investigations are non emergency calls, Coty said, that might include possible gas leaks, a fall with no injury or a sparking power line. “Sometimes it’s an illegal burn and/or complaints,” he said. “Running investigations in this manner improves the service to our residents while cutting labor costs to our municipalities by limiting the excessive labor of a full alarm.”
Thirty-six of the investigations were in St. Louis. Sixteen were in Jasper Township; 11 in Pine River Township and 10 in Bethany Township.
As a safeguard against complaints, the SLAFD now dispatches two people for each investigation. “We run all investigations now with two people mainly because if we have an officer going into somebody’s residence it’s good to have two sets of eyes, and we want somebody looking after the other,” Coty told the Fire Board. “We don’t want anyone coming back and saying I have a problem of any sort; he-said she-said type stuff.”
Fire Board members got a chance to see a nifty annual report for 2022 prepared by Lieutenant Trevor Allen, whose tenure with the department began almost 23 years ago.
The report shows the number of fire runs (73), rescue runs (348) and training events (22) the department had in 2022.
Coty responded more often than any other firefighter with with 349 total events, including 69 fire runs and 258 rescue runs. Matt Ross responded to 344 total events, including 67 fire runs and 258 rescue runs. Allen responded to 234 total events, including 67 fire runs and 146 rescue runs. Carl Eyer responded to 199 total events, including 40 fire runs and 141 rescue runs. Keith McJilton responded to 197 total events, including 59 fire runs and 120 rescue runs. Jeffrey Hoyt responded to 163 total events, including 39 fire runs and 107 rescue runs. Sean Kelly responded to 153 total events, including 37 fire runs and 94 rescue runs. Greg Kolhoff responded to 131 total events, including 25 fire runs and 88 rescue runs. (Kolhoff is also a full-time St. Louis police officer.)
The remaining firefighters responded to less than 100 total events during 2022.
Firefighters are paid $28.28 per rescue run and $31.42 per fire run.
Training almost complete
Joshua Hitsman and Tailer Lange are three quarters of the way through Saginaw Fire Academy, Coty said. “This training is paid for using Gratiot County Fire allocation funds from the state firefighter training council. The cost of the academy is $700 and takes approximately six months going two evenings a week and some weekend classes. This is the same training that full-time firefighters receive. There is no cost to our community for this training.”
Show me the money
Fire Board member Bobbie Marr (who is also the St. Louis finance director) made a report on SLAFD finances.
The department’s primary source of revenue is from St. Louis and the townships of Bethany, Jasper and Pine River: $339,054 in fiscal year 2022. That is 65 percent of total revenue. The rest comes from grants by other government agencies and private foundations.
The city of St. Louis paid $76,323 for fire runs and $49,733 for rescue runs for a total contribution of $126,056 in fiscal year 2022.
Pine River Township paid $65,684 for fire runs and $10,508 for rescue runs for a total contribution of $76,192.
Jasper Township paid $60,910 for fire runs and $13,036 for rescue runs for a total contribution of $73,947.
Bethany Township paid $47,794 for fire runs and $11,657 for rescue runs for a total contribution of $59,451.
The amount each municipality pays is based on a set fee for rescue runs and fire runs. Currently, the municipalities pay $282.11 per rescue run and $3,154.65 per fire run.
Coty told the Fire Board that the chassis for the new fire truck he ordered from Rosenbauer of South Dakota has been delayed 90 days. That might set back delivery of the new fire truck to St. Louis, which was already slated to take as much as two years. Coty blamed it on supply chain issues that have affected every municipality and many private companies.
The cost of the new truck is $458,000. It will replace the department’s 1996 International pumper
Coty said the department’s seven vehicles are mostly up and running. The 2002 Ford F-550 rescue truck has peeling decals and an oil leak but won’t be repaired because a new chassis is on order.
Batteries were replaced in the department’s 2008 International tanker and 1996 International pumper.
The rear springs on the utility task vehicle (UTV) have been upgraded to heavier capacity.
The Luneack Family Foundation donated $3,643 toward the purchase of a grain bin rescue tube.
The Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation came up with $200,000 to help pay for the aforementioned Rosenbauer fire engine.
The Fire Board agreed to pay $58,880 to Apollo Fire Service of Romeo, Mich., to transfer the body of the department’s 2002 Ford F-550 rescue truck to a new F-550 chassis that was ordered in December.
“This project is a very detailed refurbishment of our current box, replacing literally every wear component and reusing only the box framework itself,” Coty said in a memo. “All wiring, lighting, paint and doors will be replaced.” That’s an estimated savings of $48,000 compared to buying a complete new rescue truck.
Also bidding were Front Line Services of Freeland ($74,160), Spencer Manufacturing of South Haven ($84,366) and CSI Emergency Apparatus of Grayling ($101,236).
High school training begins March 6
Students in the Gratiot-Isabella Technical Education Center will begin training at the SLAFD on March 6.
Students will spend two hours a day during one trimester of the school year at the fire station.
GI-TEC instructor Bob March estimated last August that 30 first-year students will be in a morning class, and 15-20 second-year students will be in an afternoon class.
Students who complete could qualify for Firefighter 1 certification, which would make them employable at fire departments all over the state right out of high school.
Read more about that program in THIS Sentinel story from August 2022.
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