Thursday May 26, 2016
Whether it is a rapid response to an emergency or educating the public through fire prevention events, the South Burlington Fire Department (SBFD) is on the job and dedicated to the city’s safety and well-being 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In recognition of its commitment to excellence, the SBFD earned the 2016 Ambulance Service of the Year Award from the Vermont Department of Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS)Division at a ceremony celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Vermont EMS. The award ceremony was held at the State House lawn in Montpelier on Tuesday, May 17.
In recognition of National EMS Week, May 15-21, the 2016 Ambulance Service Award was one of seven accolades announced by Dr. Henry Chen, commissioner at the Vermont Department of Health.
“The South Burlington Fire Department is a familiar, respected part of its community, and its virtues are well-known beyond the city’s borders,” Dr. Chen said. “Its annual open house and frequent visits to schools and residential care facilities means that when South Burlington residents call 911, they know they will be cared for by trusted friends.”
“When nearby Burlington Fire Department began its move from the Advanced EMT level to Paramedic, they looked to South Burlington Fire Department as a model, benefitting from the department’s full cooperation and mentorship,” he added.
Naturally, having touched many lives throughout its existence, the SBFD received a flood of nominations thanking members for their service, their skill, and their heart. While residents and neighboring communities have expressed great pride in the department’s work, there is no one more proud than Fire Chief Doug Brent.
“I’m a doting father about my staff,” Chief Brent admitted with a smile. “We got this award because of the staff. We didn’t get this award because we have the best trucks, the best ambulances, or the best equipment. When you get letters from doctors in the Emergency Room, they don’t know if our truck is white or red. They’re writing a letter based on the way we’re delivering services to them.”
This belief was reflected in the nominations. For example, Dr. Mariah Macnamara, an emergency physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, nominated the SBFD based on her experience with the department starting from the 1990s. She worked with South Burlington as a UVM student, as the Director of Operations for UVM Rescue, and then as a doctor after graduating from medical school and returning to Vermont. The consistent level of professionalism displayed throughout the years contributed to Macnamara’s decision to make her home in South Burlington.
“My children are growing up knowing some of the fire and EMS personnel here in our community because of the community outreach that they do through the schools and that they do through community events,” she wrote in her nomination. “This familiarity could be therapeutic in the future if they were to ever need ambulance transport or even life-saving should they be willing to call 911 or first responders if they find themselves in danger, ” Dr. Macnamara said.
Emergency Medicine Physician and Burlington Fire Department Medical Advisor Dr. Michael Sheeser said, “There is no other ambulance service over the last decade that operates in any greater consistent clinical excellence or stronger current professionalism than the members of South Burlington. I helped train these nascent EMT-Ps [Paramedic], and attended their graduation ceremony. I have watched a strong group of graduates leave the streets and come back with high volumes of sick and traumatized patients to my doorstep. There’s no better pre-hospital care provider in District #3.”
City officials, emergency department staff, and leaders from two other ambulance services all came forward to nominate SBFD for the award.
On behalf of South Burlington, City Manager Kevin Dorn wrote, “We are extremely proud of the South Burlington Fire Service and our ambulance crews, and the important work they do in our community. This award and recognition of their work was very well deserved.”
The History of the SBFD
Before 1970, South Burlington sub-contracted with the City of Burlington for fire and EMS services. South Burlington’s department was then established in 1970, and it started as a mostly volunteer organization based on firefighting. It has since evolved into a full-time department offering fire-fighting services as well as advanced life support, technical rescues, building inspections, fire code enforcement, and public education.
Chief Brent estimates that it was around 1980 when they started doing first response EMS alongside their fire duties. In May 2004, South Burlington residents voted in favor of ambulance services, and the department began officially transporting that August. In that same year, to accommodate for the service, there was a $650,000 addition to the fire station.
In February 2012, South Burlington started providing Paramedic level service, and as a Paramedic service, SBFD has been an important preceptor site for new paramedics in EMS District #3.
In addition to these services, SBFD is involved in a number of outreach efforts, such as preventative programs (like Fire Prevention Day in the fall) and a drinking and driving awareness program to high school seniors prior to prom night, as well as ongoing programs in the city’s schools.
There are currently 27 staff members on the floor, including two captains, three lieutenants, and 22 dual role firefighter/EMT, EMT-A Paramedics, who work in three-day shifts. Each member is a valuable asset to the community. Each one had to go through a thorough interviewing process, Brent said.
“The biggest attribute that we’re looking for is: how well do they fit our department and how well do they fit this community? That’s why we have such a low turnover rate,” he said.
Chief Brent, Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Terrance Francis, and Linda Zeno, fire department administrative assistant, also add to the staff. Brent has worked for the department for 14 years as of May 20. He is also the longest-serving career Fire Chief in Vermont; he started his career in 1974.
The department is comprised of two stations: Station One is next to City Hall on Dorset Street, and Station Two is at 3 Holmes Road, off of Shelburne Road. To accommodate the needs of a growing city, the department has made major equipment purchases, including three pumpers, one ladder truck, one rescue truck, and two ambulances. Grant funding has been a major factor in helping to support the department’s vehicles and staffing, along with special ops training, specialized rescue and exhaust extraction, as well.
SBFD recorded 3,227 combined fire-related and medical emergency responses in Fiscal Year 2015, 2,000 of which were medical emergencies. Chief Brent estimates that by FY16, the department could record between 3,200–3,400 calls.
“The job that these guys do is just incredible,” Brent said. “I’ve seen them bring people back from death’s doorstep many times, in many ways you never think they could.”
Congratulations to the department for this well-deserved recognition.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent