Parents praise OKC FF disciplined for transporting child in fire engine, say EMS system 'failed'
The parents of the 3-year-old girl who suffered burns in a cooking accident said they waited 20 minutes for an ambulance before the firefighter offered to transport her
A debate over non-ambulance transport ignited following the Oklahoma City firefighter's actions and subsequent discipline for taking a burned toddler to the hospital in a fire engine. Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese weighs in on the complex issue, asking “Is fire engine transport ever the best choice for an injured child?”
By Laura French
OKLAHOMA CITY — The parents of a toddler who was transported to the hospital in a fire apparatus after a cooking accident say the firefighter disciplined for making the transport did the right thing when the EMS system "failed."
Corey and Kristin Amme said they were left waiting for more than 20 minutes for an ambulance after their daughter Quinn, 3, was scalded by hot oil from a fondue pot on Christmas Eve, according to KFOR. Kristin Amme said that after a 20-minute wait, with firefighters already on the scene, a dispatcher told her the ambulance was still at least 10 minutes away.
Oklahoma City Fire Maj. Corey Britt made the decision to transport Quinn and her mother in his fire engine, asking dispatch to cancel the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) unit that was en route to the scene, KFOR reports. Britt was later disciplined for his actions, with officials saying he went against protocol and state law by transporting the child in the engine.
Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Mike Walker said Britt's discipline did not include demotion, termination or loss of pay. KFOR reported that Britt was removed from his role as senior company officer at Station 34, citing firefighters with knowledge of the disciplinary action.
The fire department reported that the EMSA unit was less than 1/2 mile away from the Ammes' home when Britt decided to make the transport in Engine 34, and dispatch records indicate that Britt was told the ambulance was just around the corner when he requested the cancelation.
Kristin Amme told KFOR, in an interview before the disciplinary action was announced, that she believes Britt "made a decision not only as a first responder and a firefighter, but as a father and a fellow Oklahoman," adding, "He made the best choice for the care of his patient."
Corey Amme said he was grateful to the firefighters who responded, and that EMSA wasn't there for them when they needed them.
EMSA Chief of Operations John Graham said the agency is struggling with low staffing, delays at emergency rooms and the need to decontaminate its ambulances for COVID-19, which takes up more time. Graham also said that less ambulances are in service and more ambulances are coming from farther away, being dispatched from hospitals instead of community posts. Oklahoma City Deputy Attorney and EMSA Board Chairman Wiley Williams said the agency has faced a challenging transition period after terminating its contract with American Medical Response and taking over ambulances services on Dec. 1, 2020.
Oklahoma City Firefighters Local 157 issued a statement last week following Britt's Friday disciplinary hearing, stating that the union supported Britt throughout the fire department's investigation and that COVID-19 and staffing issues have been contributing factors in longer wait times for ambulances in the area. Union officials added that they hope to work with the parties involved in the incident in remedying the problems that put firefighters in a difficult position while trying to provide quality care.
Quinn Amme, who suffered second-degree burns in the accident, is now recovering at home. Her parents say she is expected to make a complete recovery.
Next: Listen in as Fire Chief Marc Bashoor weighs in on the issue