‘I’m done,’ chief says as entire Texas FD resigns

The chief and FFs opposed being pulled from most medical calls; city admin. says medical calls are covered by ambulance service, FFs not qualified

By Laura French

PINEHURST, Texas — An entire Texas volunteer fire department has resigned over a decision by city officials to remove volunteer firefighters from most medical calls

All nine members of the Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department dropped off their gear at the fire station Monday, saying the dispute with the city had reached a breaking point, according to 12 News Now

"I'm done, you're not going to make me lose any more sleep!" Fire Chief Shon Branham told 12 News. "We save property and lives, but we can't get any help from anybody across the street over there. I'm done with grief, I ain't getting paid for this!"

The dispute stemmed from a new dispatch service contract that began on July 1, which will cost the city about $1,100 more per year than the previous contract. City Administrator Jerry Hood planned to help the city save money by pulling the volunteer firefighters from most medical calls, including assaults, breathing problems, chest pain, choking, seizures, strokes and traumatic injuries. 

Branham objected to Hood deeming such calls "unnecessary" for the firefighters to respond to. Department members also claimed they were not allowed to attend city administration meetings to voice their concerns and had circulated a petition in the hopes of reversing the change, which was implemented on July 16. 

Hood responded to the mass resignation in a statement Tuesday, saying the decision was made to pull firefighters from the calls because those calls were already covered by the city's main ambulance service, Acadian Ambulance, adding that only two of the Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department members held EMT-B certification. 

"Former Chief Branham does NOT hold the necessary certifications to provide life-saving care for all medical calls that he requested to respond to. Most first responders who did not possess the proper certification and who have no formal medical training, with the exception of CPR certification, were running emergency traffic (Lights and sirens) to medical calls often arriving minutes after Acadian Ambulance was on scene," Hood stated, according to KFDM. "Having unqualified, non-medically trained personnel responding to calls throughout the city is not only a liability when they respond 'hands on' with these patients, but causes undue danger when driving with emergency lights and sirens activated, exceeding the speed limit and at times disregarding traffic control devices." 

Hood also stated that he had called Branham about eight hours before the "walk-out" offering to compromise but that Branham refused to meet with him and didn't inform him about the plan for all of the firefighters to resign. 

Medical calls in Pinehurst will continue to be covered by Acadian Ambulance and fire services will be provided by the City of Orange Fire Department following the mass resignation, Hood said. 

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