No Chief Yet But Hammon & Kyle Talk Of Closing DFD Station 4

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DECAUR, Ala. (WHNT) - It's been months since the City of Decatur had a fire chief. The city has tried several times to narrow a field of applicants, but the council is forced to begin the process yet again. Today, firefighters asked city leaders to visit their training center for a first hand look at what the department does, and where firefighters hope the future will lead them. WHNT News 19's Al Whitaker has the story.

A few members of the Decatur City Council have publicly said they believe the Decatur Fire Department should cut back on the services they provide. Currently, firefighters respond to not only fire calls but to most of the traffic accidents and other emergency medical calls in the city.

Today they showed members of the city council why that saves lives. The scenario shows the so-called pit-crew method of attending to someone who has suffered a heart attack. Its believed to greatly improve a victim's chances of survival. Following the two-hour demonstration, Council President Gary Hammon said he was impressed, but...

"I mean I'm not going to come to a demonstration and change my mind on anything immediately, but it's something else to think about, sure," Hammon told WHNT News 19.

Firefighters learned today the council is considering closing Station Four. Mayor Kyle declined to discuss it but Hammon confirmed he and the mayor have talked about the future of Station Four but that no decision would be made until a new fire chief is hired, and that process is continuing. There are currently 42 applicants for the fire chiefs job. That includes one Decatur Battalion Chief. The rest are from outside the department.

-- Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19

FROM THE REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: We began hearing rumors of the closing of Station Four early Thursday morning. Several firefighters I spoke with confirmed the story but added it's not official just yet. One high ranking member of the department, when asked Thursday afternoon, dispatched it as nonsense saying, "I'd like to know where that's coming from." Basically it could have come from any member of the fire department as the word spread through the rank and file like a wild fire, no pun intended. However, late Thursday afternoon, as the demonstration was winding down that firefighters put on at the training center for members of the city council, the city's attorney and the city clerk, and others, I asked Mayor Don Kyle for a quick on-camera interview. He responded only if I would tell him in advance what I planned to ask. I replied Station Four. He left without making any intelligible comment. Council President Gary Hammon, who was standing with me when I asked that of the Mayor, volunteered he and Kyle had been in discussions regarding the closing of Station Four, but stressed no decision would be made until a new fire chief has been hired.

Most any of the firefighters will quietly tell you of a growing riff between them and "city hall," as many have told me. The majority won't speak on-camera for fear of retribution. The goal of Thursday's demonstration was designed to make certain council members are aware of the remarkable achievements for a department this size, their training the envy of departments in much larger cities, and hoped the demonstration would be helpful to the council members as they begin again the task of trying to select a new fire chief. We'll see. More to come...   Al


  • Tony

    Let’s see. One ambulance service files for bankruptcy and has shut down. Their backup is another PRIVATE service that could do the same thing. Private services are notorious for closing up shop when the subsidy money dries up or some kind of riff with the city. The only guarantee is the fire department. That is something Decatur can control. They should leave the firehall open and expand their service to include not only first response but transport as well.

  • Randy

    Sweetwater will not come here without a firestation across the river. Is the city going to close one to open another one??

    I helped in the last city election and I can and will help in the next election. Might be time for a change.

  • Ginger

    It’s as if they (the politicians) want to run everyone off. This is the most backwards place I’ve ever been. Thank God I only work here and don’t live here. I’ve seen first hand what the fire department means to this city. Too bad it seems that the only way anyone in town hall will realize this is if they have to use the services themselves. The men and women are trained to handle medical calls, not just put out fires. What they do is a blessing for this community.

  • chris

    Decatur fire should streamline their responses. They should primarily focus on fire response and only high priority medical emergencies, which are few and far between. First Response EMS isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and are capable of staffing more than enough ambulances for this city. The municipality will do much better and have a more expanded budget for equipment and such if they go with the response plan of many larger cities including our neighbor and go with a Basic life support fire department, and a privatized preferably not for profit ambulance service. Leave the firefighting to the firemen. Give them the staffing and equipment to do so and leave emergency medical care to the ambulance service whose primary job it is to do so. Too many paramedics on scene provides more confusion than it does improved care for a patients because every paramedic has their own treatment plan. And the quality of care is no different whether your paramedic arrived on a fire truck or in an ambulance because they all operate under the same protocols from the state. Not to mention in the latest protocol update transporting ambulance services ex. First response or HEMSI are allowed to have an expanded scope of practice over that of first responder or fire service non transporting medics, which means they can provide more medications and do procedures the fire medics cannot. DFR quit wasting my taxpayer dollars and get your fingers outta everybody else’s pie. Just be there for extra hands on the important stuff and putting the wet stuff on the red stuff where you truly save lives

  • Eugene Vest

    My guess is the Mayor and city council members has not had a family member in a car accident that need quick medical attention, or at home and needed quick medical attention. If they had, they would understand that this is a service that is needed. In most cases a FDR truck will get to the scene before the amb. will. There are times when minutes can mean the difference in life or death. Before they start closing fire stations to save money, they need to look at cutting the money they are giving away for things that do not save someones life. I am retired from DFR. When we first started handling medical calls, I was against it. Did not see the need for it. But in the years of service after starting medical calls, I found out what a difference it makes. There have been people saved from death because of DFR medics getting on scene quickly. What price do you put on the life of people. Does it cost too much to save someone. If you think so, I hope one of your loves ones are never in need of their services when it services are no longer provided. As far as too many medics on scene being a problem, I never saw that problem. They always worked together for the better of the patient. As I said, if you are worried about your tax dollars, which is more important, saving someone’s life or restoring a train depot that will never save a single life. I vote to save a life.

  • Hammer


    First of all this issue has nothing to do with the ambulance service. Let’s look at the facts shall we?

    1.) Procedures and drugs do not vary between fire based EMS and transport based EMS. Check your state protocols. The only exception is air ambulance and First Response is not in that business.

    2.) Decatur Fire & Rescue is the primary EMS provider for the citizens of Decatur as established by city ordinance. First Response has been doing a good job (and I see no reason they won’t continue to do so) but the history of ambulance providers in our city delivering delayed and sub par care created this need. I hope First Response continues to excel but Fire & Rescue will that ensure excellent emergency care is being delivered to our citizens. That isn’t an insult to anyone. The citizens pay taxes for a service so why would fire not be in charge instead of a for profit private company? “Our neighbor” you referred to is behind and playing catch up. What about Nashville? Birmingham? Chicago? NYC? If we are going to strive to be like someone else let’s put patient care first.

    3.) Fire & Rescue does not bill for medical services so your “finger in the pie” comment makes no sense. Fire can arrive first, use their equipment, care for the patient in the back of your ambulance all the way to the ER, and the consumer will only be billed by the ambulance. The cost of fire responding on medical calls is negligible. The benefits are innumerable. As a side note do you have any idea about how often calls become mis-categorized during dispatch? Language barriers, the stress of the caller’s situation, and a variety of other issues make the dispatchers job extremely difficult. My solution is to dispatch fire on everything. If they aren’t needed, great. I’d rather have resources I don’t need than need resources I don’t have.

    4.) Too many paramedics on the scene “provides more confusion” in what way? The fire unit operates as a company so when they enter one medic will be in charge. City ordinance states fire is in charge of the patient until they pass care to a transport unit unless they deem that it is in the best interest of the patient to continue providing care during transport to the hospital. That’s pretty simple.

  • Shirey Erwin

    This is exactly why we elected to have a city manager not a mayor!
    Politics is always involved instead of the well being of the citizens of this city and it’s employees!

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