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Firefighters take all kinds of calls

That includes medical aid and rescuing teens from swings
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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That’s because aside from being trained to extinguish fires, Lincoln’s firefighters are also trained in emergency medical care, including CPR, basic first aid, providing oxygen and use of a defibrillator. The News Messenger rode along with Engine Company 34 to see what it’s like to be a firefighter. On shift that day were fire captain Al Cass, and firefighters Aaron Bjorgum, Billy Hartley and Pete Manley. In six hours with Engine 34, there were three calls for medical aid, including one for a woman who had reported trouble breathing but was “clinically dead” when firefighters arrived on scene, according to Hartley. He was one of four firefighters on shift that day. Upon arrival, firefighters worked to first move the woman to a spot on the floor of her residence so CPR could be performed, with oxygen administered to the patient, as well as a shock of electricity to restart her heart from the portable defibrillator carried on Lincoln’s fire engines. “As soon as we shocked her, the ambulance put on their heart monitor and her pulse came back,” said Bjorgum, who performed chest compressions on the woman as part of the CPR given. Some firefighters commented later that seeing someone brought back to life like that isn’t something seen too often. Four hours earlier, Engine 34 was dispatched to provide first aid to the victim of an after-school fight while Engine 35 was dispatched to help with efforts to extinguish the destructive fire at the Galleria Mall. Firefighters then waited for the mother of one of the fighting youth, whose face was bruised and bleeding. “We have to make contact with the parent to determine what to do with the juvenile,” Hartley said. “The parent has to pick them up or they go to the hospital.” Upon arriving back at the station, the firefighters restocked items that been used and moved onto their next task: calling in employees who were off for the day to staff Engine 35. That’s because, as previously mentioned, other staff were helping to extinguish the mall fire. “We are the only ones covering the city,” Manley said. He explained that fire departments from other jurisdictions that would normally provide mutual aid when one engine company is occupied were also in Roseville fighting the mall fire. At least three staff are needed on an engine, according to Manley, for safety reasons. Bjorgum said there are three separate roles played by firefighters on a call: fire captain, engineer and firefighter. “The captain operates the radio, makes the decisions, does a walk around the house and does the reports. The engineer operates the pump, secures the water supply and makes sure the pump is set to the correct pressure,” Bjorgum said. “The firefighter’s responsibility is to pull the lines and tools to the door, forcible entry and operating the nozzle.” Hartley said 75 percent of calls responded to by the fire department are medical aid and the rest are for incidents including fires, vehicle accidents and public assists. They even respond to more random incidents, like ducklings down storm drains, cats on roofs and swarms of bees, according to Cass. Hartley said a call will occasionally come in for preteens and teenagers caught in toddler swings at parks. “The bigger kids get caught in the toddler swing and we’ve had to cut the swing down and cut the toddler swing off of the child,” Hartley said. The firefighters have daily tasks around the fire house they are responsible for, from checking equipment on the fire engine and on the engine to taking care of the station. “It’s our big home away from home. The two days we are here, we keep the bathroom and kitchen clean, and clean up after the messes we make,” Cass said. “Sunday is lawn and landscaping day so we clean up the lawns, pull weeds to make the place look nice.” Hartley said Saturdays are for making sure Station 33, which is located on McBean Park Drive and recently closed due to budget cuts, is kept up. Firefighters have to eat, too, and their food is paid for out of their own pockets, according to Cass. “Billy cooks most of the time. We eat pretty good and we eat a lot of Mexican food because the cook’s favorite food is Mexican,” Cass said. That day, they decided to cook pork tacos for dinner and drove to the grocery store in the fire engine in case a call came in while shopping. As luck would have it, a call came in as the crew pulled into the parking lot, which was immediately responded to. After finishing up the call, which was a woman pulled off to the side of the road having difficulty breathing, the firefighters returned to the store to make their purchase and responded to another call for service right after leaving the store’s parking lot. Cass described racing to the call as “the funnest part of the job.” “I like everything about what I do. It’s the best job in the world,” he said. “Besides helping people and affecting change in someone’s life, it’s the camaraderie of the guys. It’s like a second family.”