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Fire and EMS Continue to Look for Common Ground in Subcommittee

Louisville’s Merger 2.0 Task Force subcommittee on fire and EMS met on Tuesday. As the Oct. 1 deadline for recommendations nears, the two departments are struggling to find common ground.

The subcommittee meeting was at times contentious. Fire and EMS have different opinions on how to proceed with the conversation about possible changes to either agency.

Fire officials said they want to look at data and different models that might shed some light on how to be more efficient. EMS said the subcommittee doesn’t have the time or the information to make any major recommendations, such as a merger.

“It might be reasonable to ask an external group to come in who has got serious expertise in this. Everybody here has expertise but this is a pretty time consuming project,” said Dr. Neal Richmond, the director of Louisville Metro EMS.

Richmond said it’s a difficult project to take on with the amount of time and resources the subcommittee has.

Both departments agree that public safety and patient care is a top priority. But the logistics and decisions behind how to operate was sometimes at odds. Members from both sides did recommend improving communication and suggested offering similar technology to all departments so that accountability was consistent.

Each subcommittee member will prepare five suggestions for both fire and EMS at the next meeting on Aug. 23. They will also continue to review data and information, and search for areas where the departments can be more efficient.

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Fire and EMS Discuss Efficiency and Effectiveness

The Louisville Merger 2.0 fire and EMS subcommittee met for over two hours on Monday. It began with a presentation by Louisville Metro EMS.

It highlighted the agency’s use of new technology and its increased revenue over the past few years. But the agency still relies on fire departments to be first responders, said Walter Lage, chief of Anchorage Fire and EMS.

“EMS needs help from the fire districts and the fire districts need financial help. Now can we get the two of those together I don’t know,” he said.

The subcommittee discussed how both fire and EMS could benefit by sharing technology and saving time and resources, but neither side would say what it would recommend to the mayor.

The subcommittee meets again on Aug. 9. The mayor has asked for recommendations for Merger 2.0 by Oct. 2.

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Fire Prevention Month Begins, Fire Deaths Down

City and suburban firefighters Tuesday kicked off Fire Prevention Month, and firefighters again used the ceremony to stress the importance of basic home safety.

Louisville Fire Chief Greg Frederick says there have been hundreds of fires in the last year in local homes that did not have functioning smoke detectors. He says that number is unacceptable, especially since the city fire department and the suburban fire districts provide smoke detectors for free to homeowners.

“With all of that, with all those programs we have to come out and ensure you have a detector, it is very frustrating to know that we still have homes in the community that are still unprotected,” he says.

Four civilians and one firefighter have died in fires in Louisville this year. There were sixteen total deaths last year, all civilians.

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Louisville Fire Department Unveils New Boat

The Louisville Fire Department has a new rescue boat on the Ohio River.The boat was paid for largely with federal Homeland Security funds.

All but a fourth of the boat’s 400 thousand dollar price tag was paid for with the federal grant. The rest came from the fire department’s fund for new vehicles.

The vessel is faster and more efficient than the department’s current boat. Fire Chief Greg Frederick says it’s also versatile enough to handle most of the city’s aquatic emergencies.

“We get a number of calls that range from jumpers on the bridges to boats that are in distress, boat fires, marina fires, things of that nature,” he says. “On average we have probably about 250 calls a year on the river.”

The department’s current boat will be put in reserve and eventually retired. The new boat has a nine-person crew, five of whom are divers.

Some of the suburban fire districts also have boats.

“I believe there are several other districts: The Harrod’s Creek Fire Department has a fire boat; the North Oldham Fire Department has a boat as well,” says Frederick. “At this point, I’m not positive about downriver, what we have down below the lock and dam system.”

The new boat was built in Jeffersonville.

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Crusade Hopes To Move Beyond Barth Controversy

by Gabe Bullard

Firefighters will be out across the region this weekend collecting for the Crusade for Children, and Crusade officials are hoping donations won’t be hurt by a recent scandal.

Former McMahan Fire Chief and Crusade board chairman Paul Barth was indicted in April for allegedly misusing money meant for the Crusade. Crusade president Dawn Lee says Barth’s case was an unfortunate, but isolated, incident. To move past the scandal, the organization has reviewed its internal controls over money, and Lee says firefighters have been working to clear the charity’s name.

“The firefighters are our eyes and ears and arms and legs out in the community and I think they’ve done a great job of answering questions as they come up and we’ve had several meetings with fire departments, just trying to make sure everybody’s on the same page,” she says.

Some firefighters were collecting for the Crusade last weekend, but this weekend will be the main push for departments in the area. Lee says she won’t know whether donations are down until after all the money is counted next week.

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Explosion Injures Worker, Damages Factory

Firefighters were called to a Louisville plant after an explosion there today (THURSDAY). WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

The explosion happened just after noon inside Nuplex Resins, a Louisville factory on Crittenden Drive, and injured one worker. It happened as a large kettle was being cleaned with solvents and caused a flash fire.

Henry Ott is chief of investigation for the Louisville Metro Arson Bureau.

“Vapors from a tank, which was being cleaned, escaped into other portions of the plant and were ignited,” Ott says. “It did approximately damage to 10 percent of the facility and injured one of their employees.”

The worker suffered second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body and was taken to University Hospital.

Otts says the situation was quickly brought under control.

“The fire actually was extinguished by the sprinkler system within the building,” Ott says. “The fire department monitored the facility to make sure that there were no chemicals escaping, and the plant has been turned back over to plant personnel.”

Ott says the explosion damaged about 10 percent of the facility.

The factory houses Nuplex, a company that develops resin-based coatings.

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Old Louisville Residents File Suit Over Engine 7

Residents of Old Louisville have taken legal action to keep the Engine 7 firehouse open.

The station will close on Sunday as part of the city’s efforts to deal with a $20 million budget shortfall. Fire Chief Greg Frederick says the area is protected by six other firehouses, but residents are concerned. They say the neighborhood is densely populated and needs more coverage.

Frederick says the fire department is aware of Old Louisville’s demographics.

“We look at all those things and take that into consideration when we assess what hazards we have throughout our entire district,” he says.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Monday morning.

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Portland Residents Tour New Firehouse

The Portland neighborhood in Louisville is about to get a new firehouse. Fire Chief Greg Frederick led residents this morning on a tour of the new facility.
He says the new firehouse will replace a station that is more than 100 years old.
“In the old station you had the workbenches, locker rooms, and everything was out on the apparatus bay,” says Frederick. “In the new house, everything’s in its place and it’s much more efficient.”

Frederick says the new firehouse features single dormitories for firefighters. He says the feature is crucial in new firehouses because of the changing demographics of the city’s fire department.

“We don’t know what the makeup of the department will be as far as male and female, so instead of going in and building a male dorm and a female dorm, we just went with individual dormitories…it eliminates that whole problem,” says Frederck.

The new firehouse also includes energy efficient appliances and a geothermal heating system.
Frederick says it should be operational in the next three to four weeks.
The new Portland firehouse is part of the city’s fire department modernization plan originally announced in 2006.