Pine-Strawberry Fire Chief Gary Morris is urging residents in need of immediate medical help to call 911 instead of showing up at a Pine or Strawberry fire station.
“The fire district responds to 60 emergencies a month and firefighter/paramedics may not be at the fire station when they (the patient) arrive.”
That situation could mean a delay in life-saving treatment, which could prove fatal.
A 61-year-old man recently drove himself to the Pine station complaining of chest pains, Morris said.
Paramedics started life support measures and transported him to Banner Payson Medical Center.
En route, the man went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics stopped the ambulance to begin CPR and defibrillation measures with onboard equipment.
“Fortunately, the heart was restarted,” Morris said.
A helicopter airlifted the man from Payson to a Valley-area heart hospital for critical-care treatment.
If the man had suffered the heart attack while driving himself to the fire station he could have died, Morris said, “and not have been noticed until well after.”
In firefighter/paramedic jargon, the outcome is a “save” because the patient survived a life-threatening emergency.
“Nearly every month fire/paramedics treat one or more very serious, life-threatening medical emergencies such as this,” Morris said. “This could have been fatal had it not been for the paramedics.”
To prepare for such emergencies, the fire district has stationed trained paramedics at both the Pine and Strawberry stations.
And two firefighters are enrolled in a yearlong paramedic training program to prepare for full-time duty.
In some situations, paramedics treat patients that require more specialized care than the Payson hospital provides, which means they can be airlifted to Valley area cardiac hospitals by a Native Air helicopter stationed at the Payson Airport or by Air Evac at the Payson hospital.
“No other rural community in the state has this high level of air transport capability,” Morris said. “These combined services means Pine-Strawberry residents have the highest level survival rates than anywhere in the state”
But in the best interests of those in need, Morris asks residents, “In an emergency call 911, do not drive to the fire station.”