A community newsletter serving New Melle, Defiance, Augus​ta, Marthasville, Dutzow​​ a​nd surrounding areas.

Tragic Defiance Fire: Follow Up Thoughts from New Melle Fire Chief Dan Casey

The following is from NMFPD Chief Dan Casey regarding the Tragic Defiance Fire

This type of call is a firefighter's worst nightmare. When someone is trapped in a burning building, we cannot get there fast enough. We train hard for these events, even though we know they are infrequent. They require speed and a very high skill level to be successful. We do not have a lot of time. Most successful rescues are completed within seven minutes after the first 911 call. After seven minutes, the rate of success diminishes exponentially. We arrived at the sixteen-minute mark. We entered the window within 45 seconds of arriving on the scene. The expectation of being successful was low, but we went in anyway in dramatically deteriorating conditions to give those boys any possible chance of survival. This was what we train so hard for. To make that effort and be unsuccessful is devastating to our firefighters. We do not want to have to tell family members that we were unable to save their loved ones. This weighs hard on all first responders.

In an effort to limit the effect of these types of traumas on our first responders, we engage in critical incident stress debriefings. Over time, these events can be mentally debilitating to our first responders, and we must prevent those traumatic events from affecting their daily lives. From the first police officer on the scene, the dispatchers, and firefighters, to the paramedics with patient care, we all meet and discuss the incident to make sure we are capable of dealing with the trauma appropriately. A trained group of individuals from a critical incident stress team is notified and coordinates those meetings with all first responders to ensure a better mental outcome for our people. These meetings were held last week and were very helpful in making sure that our first responders will be mission ready for the next emergency.

Looking To the Future:
These kinds of fires are not common occurrences by any means, but it could happen again today. Our main focus must be to stick to our mission of Community FIRST and how we decrease response times to areas like this. The fire occurred in the Augusta FPD venue, but not far from where our District line is. Augusta is an all-volunteer fire department. New Melle is a combination fire department with at least three firefighter personnel on duty at all times. We were the first firefighters on the scene, but it took sixteen minutes to reach the scene. Far too long.

Volunteers are difficult to get and even harder to keep. Each volunteer must receive a level of training acceptable by the State to respond to emergencies and keep up with that training. Each volunteer needs to have appropriate personal protective equipment and be enrolled in all administrative insurance required. The total investment in each volunteer is nearly $10,000 annually. These days, almost everyone must work during the daytime hours. Most residents can't volunteer for the local FD. Therefore, the reality is that volunteer numbers are way down. Most volunteers are over retirement age, or are younger and plan to move into a career in emergency services, thus leaving the area once they have achieved their goal.

The call volume and severity of those calls require that we consider hiring more full-time personnel to meet the community's demands. How that happens and where they will be stationed are all being discussed in collaboration with area community leaders and area fire department personnel.

This is a complex issue, but I believe that we have reached a critical point in development. We will need to develop a plan that reflects the type of fire protection the community wants. The Augusta FD and the New Melle FPD cover nearly 190 square miles together, with just one full-time firehouse and one full-time ambulance. We will continually strive to increase our ability to provide the best service possible to the residents in and around our community.

Editor’s Note: Please keep all first responders in your thoughts and prayers. We appreciate their commitment and dedication to the community.