Posts Tagged Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt

Elgin Fire Department news (more)

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When now-former Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt started his career in Elgin in 1989, he was like a kid in a candy store whose only goal was to make a difference. Thirty years later, during his retirement ceremony Friday afternoon, he said he was honored to have worked for what he called the best fire department in the country.

Family members, residents, and colleagues showed up to say goodbye during the open house and retirement flag ceremony held at Fire Station 1.

Schmidt starts Monday as fire chief in Carrboro, North Carolina, which will allow his family to be closer to his son who lives in Tennessee. 

After the ceremony, the city manager announced that Assistant Chief Robert Cagann will serve as interim fire chief, effective immediately.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt will leave Jan. 3 after 30 years with the department and start Jan. 6 as chief of the Carrboro Fire Department in North Carolina .

Schmidt became a lieutenant in 2000, captain in 2005, and assistant chief of operations in 2011.

He is particularly proud of the changes in technology he helped implement. When he started, he was teaching firefighters what a personal computer was and how to use it. Now all Elgin fire vehicles are equipped with mobile computers and Wi-Fi hot spots. Cardiac monitors, for example, can send reports wirelessly to paramedics’ tablets for importation into reports rather than having to print out long strips of paper that would be taped to a piece of copy paper.

He is also proud of his 15 years of work with the department’s academy, which trained firefighters for Elgin and other cities.

Asked for an example of how he learned from a bad call, Schmidt recalled the April 2001 mass shooting at JB’s Pub, in which a man shot 18 people, killing two of them. His ambulance was the second on the scene and ended up taking the shooter to a hospital for treatment.

thanks Ron

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Elgin Fire Department news (more)

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An engine ran out of water before a second engine crew was able to re-establish a water supply to fight a fatal fire in Elgin this year. Elgin Fire Chief David Schmidt said that, according to radio communications, firefighters at the scene were without water for 77 seconds while trying to extinguish the blaze in a mobile home in which a 63-year-old man died.

 “There are multiple variables happening on each and every call that affect the outcome of an incident,” Schmidt said.

Department guidelines recommend the first engine use the water it carries, and when the second engine arrives, it connects a line from a hydrant to the first engine, creating a continuous flow of water, Schmidt said.

According to Elgin Fire Department documents, a neighbor called in the fire just before 6:42 p.m. Jan. 21. Records state it took 77 seconds from dispatch for Engine 5 to bring a crew of three to the burning home along the 400 block of Sadler Avenue. The dispatcher also sent an ambulance from Station 5, a truck and battalion chief from Station 1, and engines from Stations 4 and 2. The second engine arrived 7 minutes, 29 seconds after the dispatch.

Both Schmidt and Joe Galli, president of Elgin Association of Firefighters Union IAFF Local 439, said it is unusual for an engine to run out of water before a second source has been established. Galli told Elgin city officials this month that recent shift staffing cuts contributed to a delay in response to the incident.

Ken Willette of the National Fire Protection Agency said it sounds like the department followed accepted protocols in attacking the fire. He also said mobile homes are some of the worst fires to attack because of their construction materials.

After that first engine arrived, its three firefighters attached a hose to the engine and began putting water on the blaze. The two-man crew from Ambulance 5, the second unit on the scene, attached a second hose to the engine.

The reports note that when firefighters from Station 1 arrived, they assumed they were going to be responding in Engine 1, but CAD/Communications dispatched Truck 1. Truck 1’s firefighters were assigned to enter and search the home with Ambulance 5 firefighters as Engine 5 firefighters worked to extinguish the fire underneath the home and around the entrances.

“Because this was early in the new deployment, it appears there was a little uncertainty on the apparatus recommendation,” Schmidt said. “Our philosophy for the deployment change was to get two engines and one truck on the scene as quickly as possible.”

Firefighters ran out of water, though the fire continued to burn under the home and through the floor, vents and a wall, the report states, and that delayed crews from entering the building.

When Engine 4 arrived, some of its crew worked to connect a hose to a hydrant at Olive Street and Sadler. Engine 4 crew members also assisted in putting out the fire underneath the mobile home after the water was connected.

“There is no way of telling if the resident would have survived had we been given the opportunity to get inside sooner. Running out of water stalled the rescue effort,” Galli said.

Schmidt said Station 6 on West Chicago Street normally would have sent the second engine, but that crew was responding to a medical call. That put Engine 4 from the firehouse near Elgin Community College next in line to respond.

The fire was declared under control 13 minutes, 10 seconds after the 911 call.

Galli said the $700,000 cut to the department’s budget affected how events played out that night. Schmidt disagreed and said Galli was politicizing the death.

“Safety remains a top priority of the city, not only for the community but for our firefighter personnel as well. The city is and remains safe, and to suggest otherwise is misleading,” Schmidt said.

While the National Fire Protection Agency recommends four-man crews on a fire engine, having three on an engine and two in an ambulance is acceptable, based on the organization’s “1710” standard. Elgin also arrived well within the agency’s standards, he said.

“The first arriving engine and ambulance is making the determination to go with an aggressive attack with two hose lines. … They were addressing it as taught at the national fire academy,” Willette said. “The first thing is life, the second thing is incident stabilization, and the third is property conservation.”

The first engine on the scene could have chosen to immediately attach to the hydrant, but Willette noted that making that choice when another engine is en route is hard to make.

“The fact of the matter is we responded quicker to the incident on Sadler Avenue than the industry guidelines provide for an effective response force,” Schmidt said.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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The Elgin fire union president says overtime staffing cuts caused a delayed response and gap in water supply to a fire in which a 63-year-man died last month.

David Moncatch died Jan. 21 when heating tape caused a fire at his trailer home on the 400 block of Sadler Avenue. Officials at first said Moncatch died of smoke inhalation, but an autopsy showed he died of a heart attack, International Association of Firefighters Local 439 President Joe Galli said. Moncatch was found in the kitchen, apparently trying to get a fire extinguisher. Two dogs also died.

Fire Chief Dave Schmidt defended the department’s response, saying the first engine arrived two minutes after the call, and 15 firefighters arrived within eight minutes of travel time, the standard set by the National Fire Protection Association. A total of 23 firefighters responded.

At the center of the dispute is how long it took the second engine to arrive and hook up to the hydrant about 150 feet from Moncatch’s home. When the second engine arrived, nearly nine minutes after the initial call, the first engine had run out of water — the first time in recent memory that’s happened, Galli and Schmidt agreed.

The radio recording shows a one-minute gap between firefighters reporting they were out of water and saying water was beginning to pump from the hydrant. Galli said firefighters told him the actual gap was longer. “We are in a business where seconds count,” he said. Firefighters were about to enter the trailer when the water ran out, so they opted to enter after they had water.

The staffing cut enacted Jan. 11 means there are 31 firefighters — two fewer than last year — and a battalion chief on duty at all times across the city’s seven fire stations.

A structure fire calls for three engines, one ladder truck, one ambulance, and more vehicles based on the severity of the fire. The first engine arrived from Station 5 at 804 Villa St. and started fighting the fire. Moncatch’s home is behind the station.

Before the staffing cut, the second engine and ladder truck — if not on another call — would have come from Station 1 at 550 Summit St., two miles away. The staffing cut, however, makes it so crews there jump between the engine or truck. The truck Jan. 21 came from Summit Street, and the second engine came from Station 4 at 599 S. McLean Blvd., nearly four miles away, because the next-closest engine at Station 6 was out on a call.

If the second engine had come from Summit Street, it would have arrived in time to have a continuous water supply, Galli said. “We weren’t able to send the closest engine because of our staffing model. And because of that, we will never know what could have been.”

Firefighting entails juggling the unpredictability of calls, such as the one the engine from Station 6 was on when the fire at Moncatch’s home took place, Schmidt said. “It’s not an exact science, because in any given day, in excess of 50 percent of the time we are running multiple calls,” he said.

Schmidt also pointed out the ladder truck from Summit Street arrived just one minute before the second engine. The second engine that day “was still close enough. It was a respectable response time,” he said.

The cuts are estimated to save $750,000 per year. The union argued the cut would affect the safety of firefighters and residents, and the matter is expected to be decided in arbitration.

thanks Dan

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Elgin Fire Department news

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The Elgin City Council unanimously backed almost $1 million in purchases for the Elgin Fire Department, including a new fire engine, 11 tablet computers used in the field, and 65 breathing apparatus.

The contract for the new E-ONE fire engine is set to be $505,385. However, its terms offer a $10,000 trade-in allowance for an existing KME engine and a $9,271 discount for prepayment, reducing the actual purchase to $486,114. Money from the city’s share of Grand Victoria Casino taxes will be used to pay for the new engine, which will replace one that is 14-years-old and that has maintenance repair costs that exceed its trade-in worth.

“We keep that engine in reserve at Station 6,” Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said on Friday. “But with routine maintenance of vehicles and repairs, about 40 percent of the year we’re using a reserve.”

As recently at Jan. 20, the old vehicle had about 59,000 miles and had been outsourced for brake work and diesel repair, with the cost for such estimated at $4,000 – $5,000. Repairs over time have amounted to more than $41,000, thus far, with the estimated trade-in value for the engine at $10,000 to $15,000.

The new engine will be very similar to one Elgin purchased in 2015 that is being used at Station 5 and kept at Station 2 along Big Timber Road, Schmidt said. A difference is the new unit will have an LED light tower to illuminate nighttime incidents.

The price is a result of a contract former Chief John Fahy negotiated with Fire Service, Inc. for the 2015 purchase, which gave the department what amounts to a 4.5 percent price break and a savings of about $25,000.

The new hose bed is lower and the step on the back of the truck is wider than on other engines, making it easier and safer for firefighters to stand on it.

The ladder will be in a compartment instead of exposed to the elements and on top of the engine. The 2015 purchase and the new engine also have more storage space than other engines and can hold extrication equipment.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the design of the compartment for holding advance life support medical equipment allows firefighters to access it once they are outside the vehicle, instead of having it inside.

Schmidt said once the contract is signed later this month, it will take about 11 months to get the new engine. With the improving economy, E-ONE has seen an increasing number of orders, including one from Boston for more than 35 vehicles.

The council also approved the purchase of 11 Getac brand tablet computers to replace Panasonic models purchased in 2012 for use in fire inspections and patient care. The Getac units have solid state hard drives.

The final purchase moved along Wednesday was for 65 self-contained breathing apparatus and related equipment from Air One Equipment for $415,712.

The gear is Bluetooth enabled to make it easier for firefighters to verbally communicate and come with exterior amplified speakers worn on shoulders, as well. Another feature are buddy lights that can be seen from most directions and indicate critical air supply information.

Once the contract is signed, Schmidt said all items ordered from Air One Equipment should be in use by June or July.

thanks Dan, Dennis, & Scott

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Elgin Fire Department news

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Elgin City Manager Rick Kozal promoted Assistant Fire Chief Dave Schmidt to fire chief.  Schmidt steps into a post that was held by John Fahy, who retired this summer after more 30 years as a firefighter. Fahy now works for Elgin Community College as Senior Director of Academic Programming and Public Safety at the new ECC Center for Emergency Services in Burlington.

Schmidt. a 27-year veteran was hired on at just 22 years of age. When he began working in the Elgin Fire Department, the city had just four fire stations — it now has seven. They had just started to do hazardous material rescues, and the focus was still largely on fires.

Now, about 80 percent of their calls are for emergency medical services. While they still fight fires, how firefighters approach those fires is very different from back then. Instead of running into a home to fight the blaze from inside, they are often staying outside long enough to knock down the fire before determining if it is safe inside. Some of the new construction materials don’t hold up to fire like old, structural wood did.

While not running into a burning building is anathema for many firefighters, it is the safest thing for them, Schmidt said.

Schmidt also remembers when for Elgin’s largest buildings, they had a three-ring binder with plans and layouts for the building. Now, those plans are on tablets in the fire command vehicle. Those same tablets allow firefighters to track medical records for patients they’ve worked with before, track their EKGs, and provide information gathered in the field to the hospital.

Schmidt said he’s been heavily involved in making sure Elgin firefighters don’t just have access to the technology, but are trained in that tech as well.

On Tuesday, he was part of a mandatory CPR training class. While there is so much technology available to firefighters, CPR is still the basic response for many emergencies, he said.

The city will be using its own human resources department to conduct a broad, national search to find Schmidt’s replacement. Elgin’s fire department has two assistant chief spots, with the other currently held by Bryan McMahan. As many new firefighters were added between 1989-91 when new fire stations were built, those firefighters are getting close to having 25-30 years on the department — retirement age for them, Schmidt said.

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