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  • Last modified 74 days ago (April 11, 2018)

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Responders bury hatchet

Relationship on the mend

Staff writer

Eighteen people filled the fire station meeting room April 4 to confront and settle conflicts between the fire department and ambulance crew.

“It seems like we’re having trouble somewhere down the line with the fire department and ambulance not getting along,” fire board president Jay Cook said. “The best way is to get everyone together to figure it out. Both are needed by the city. I don’t know if it’s egos or personalities, but we need to get over it. We’re doing a job.”

Fire chief Mark Penner began by addressing recent conflicts that arose when an ambulance crewmember started using the fire station to sleep while waiting on possible calls.

“Nobody wants to talk to us,” he said. “They’d rather go down to the restaurant.”

Assistant chief Brett O’Dell chimed in on the matter.

“It’d be like me going to your house and taking a nap without asking,” he said. “It would have been OK but nobody said a word to us.”

EMS director Ed Debesis explained that he had spoken to Mayor Larry Larsen about it, and Larsen said he didn’t think anyone would have a problem with it. Debesis also stated that he has tried calling Penner several times in the past, with no response.

Penner asked Debesis why he would talk to Larsen instead of him.

Larsen interjected and Penner responded.

“You’ll have your turn.”

After participants began talking at once, Cook again took the floor.

“I think our biggest issue is miscommunication,” he said. “Let’s all get on the same page and do our job.”

One of the fire department’s complaints was of remotes having covers taken off and the batteries removed.

Ambulance personnel Noah Richter explained that the batteries were corroded and that firefighter Chris Carr also was at the station when he was looking at them.

“I did help you look for remotes,” Carr said. “All I know is chief came in one day asking who had taken all the batteries out and covers off and I told him I helped you look for a remote but that was it. Somebody could have just went and bought batteries and this all would be over.”

“I should have bought new batteries, that was my bad,” Richter said. “But Chris was here too.”

“I thought it was a joke when you (Debesis) called me and demanded the remotes back,” said Penner. “That’s the problem. It went everywhere else and it should have been between you and me.”

Assistant chief Steve Rose reinterated Penner’s claims.

“Everybody and their brother heard about it,” he said.

Debesis replied.

“You didn’t return my calls,” he said. “You not calling me back I felt that was disrespectful to me.”

Penner responded.

“Because at that time I felt that everybody was against the fire department. They have been all along.”

“I would have gotten to the bottom of it,” Debesis said. “But I didn’t have the chance. I don’t want to fight. I’ve been here two years,” he continued. “I don’t know what’s gone on in the past. If you ever have an issue, please call me. I don’t know everything that’s gone on because I’m not in the middle of it. You have to give me a chance to try and make it right between EMS and fire. If I don’t have that chance, nothing gets fixed.”

O’Dell agreed.

“That’s really all were asking too,” he said.

“We’ll all exchange numbers tonight,” Penner said. “We meet twice a month.”

Cook weighed in on the conversation.

“Mark, I know you work out of town and you were in Dodge City when I tried calling before,” he said. “But you can be hard to get a hold of.”

With that, opposing sides found common ground.

“Chain of command is everything,” Debesis said. “All I’m trying to do is provide a service to the community.”

“So are we,” Penner said.

The relationship between fire and EMS was repaired enough to discuss the idea of the two entities training together.

Penner confirmed Friday that he would like to see the firefighters get basic triage training.

“We’re not EMS but I would like to see my guys trained in basic triage in case of a mass casualty situation or a situation where it’s going to be a while before EMS can get there.”

Last modified April 11, 2018

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