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New Merger Provides More Support, Lowers Response Times For Middletown Fire Department

Photography Provided

Often there are times when an innovative idea takes years, even decades, to become a reality. In 1982 a proposal to merge the Middletown Fire Protection District, the Anchorage Fire Protection District and the Anchorage Ambulance District was suggested by the Chief of the Anchorage Fire Department to his board of directors, ultimately saying he’d resign if this didn’t take place. Nothing happened immediately, but discussions did continue over the next four decades until the merger finally became a reality. On March 1, 2018, the districts joined together to became the Anchorage Middletown Fire & EMS.

The merger has been a big boon to the residents who live in these communities. There are now four stations in the district: Station 1 located at 108 Urton Lane, Station 2 located at 10217 Shelbyville Road, Station 3 located at 13012 Factory Lane, and Station 4 located in Anchorage at 1400 Evergreen Road.

“We now have a staffed firetruck and a staffed ambulance on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at all four fire stations,” Fire Captain Andy Longstreet says. “I think the community is really seeing the value. We’re meeting national standards for our response times, much faster, especially on the medical side.”

According to Longstreet, in order to reach national standards in a medical emergency, an ambulance needs to be on scene within eight minutes 90% of the time.

“We’re beating that, by far, and we’re actually well under that standard,”  Longstreet adds.

The other two percent is covered by mutual aid by St. Matthews EMS, local Metro EMS and Eastwood EMS.

“We help them out and they help us out to make sure the closest resource gets to the patient or gets to the scene of an emergency,” he says.

They’re very proud that they’ve grown from a district that had, just a year ago, 47 employees operating under a $6M budget to today where there are 92 employees operating at a $14M budget.

When asked what type of response they’ve received from the community, Longstreet says it’s been overwhelmingly positive. But, he adds, it’s been difficult as well because it meant a tax increase for the Middletown Fire District to accommodate both fire and EMS.

“So, the taxes did go up a little bit, but the service level went up considerably,” he says. “When I go to HOA meetings or people stop in to see us, they’re excited. They didn’t realize that we didn’t offer those other services before, and when they see us coming to their house for a medical response, they appreciate it.”

Prior to the merger, Middletown made roughly 2,000 fire runs a year, which included medical runs to back up an ambulance. Since the merger, they’ve answered approximately 8,800 medical calls and about 2,000 fire response calls.

“Not only do we have more ambulances on the street that can transport a patient, but we have paramedics on our fire trucks which we never had before,” Longstreet says. “We had EMTs, who could do basic life support such as CPR, give oxygen and administer first aid, but now we have paramedics on the trucks that can hook up a heart monitor, intubate a patient, or push drugs. If there’s a cardiac event, there’s a much higher level of medical care. Even if the ambulance isn’t available, the fire truck personnel can start all these advanced procedures.”

At Station 1, district headquarters, there are eight employees on duty 24 hours a day. Front line staffing includes four on the fire truck, two on the ambulance, the battalion chief who supervises the entire district for a 24-hour district, and the EMS shift captain who is responsible for the ambulances on a 24-hour schedule. They also have their administrative staff which includes two civilian employees, an assistant chief, the human resources/planning officer, the workforce development division and the fire prevention office.

At Station 2 they have the support services division which includes building and fleet maintenance. In addition to their four fire stations, they have a training facility. The facility is located on North English Station Road and is one of three of its kind in Jefferson County.

“It’s one of the most progressive and advanced,” Longstreet says.

One of the structures on site is an actual two-story house with a walk-out basement where trainees can simulate search and rescue procedures or drag in hose lines. They also have classrooms, a five-story drill tower and two burn props made from intermodal containers — the large, standardized shipping containers built for freight transport.

“We put those together and simulate different fire environments,” Longstreet says. “We can burn in them and send firefighters into real heat and smoke conditions.”

Other training includes auto extrication, confined space rescue, hazardous materials simulations and high-angle rope rescue.

“Every jurisdiction in the region comes to use our training facility from time to time,” Longstreet says. “Louisville fire and rescue used it recently for a recruiting class to use our burn simulators.”

Besides responding to emergency calls, the firefighters, paramedics and EMTs help the community to provide additional service and support. Although they may not rescue cats from trees, they will certainly help neighbors in need.

“Here in Middletown, we have this older gentleman who calls us all the time,” Battalion Chief Matt Goolsby says. “He has one of those reclining chairs that lift up, and he slides out all the time. His wife and daughter can’t pick him up so we go over to help him.”

If someone calls saying they need assistance changing their smoke alarm battery, the firefighters will come out to help. During the year they also provide sponsorship for the Eastern High School basketball tournament and provide EMTs for the school’s band competitions and track meets. They are involved in Project Graduation at the Christian Academy of Louisville and Eastern High where they display mock DUI crashes or demonstrate auto extrication. During the summer, they hold spray parties for local youth groups, and in October they’ll park their trucks in local neighborhoods and pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters.

The district is currently in discussion with the Harris Creek Fire Department, Worthington Fire Department and the Eastwood Fire Department to merge together. Longstreet says that could happen soon. That merger would make them the third-largest fire district in the state of Kentucky following Louisville and Lexington.

“We already, operationally, work together seamlessly with those other districts,” he says. “If someone’s house is on fire it’s likely you’ll see more than one fire department there now.”

In the end, the men and women who work as firefighters and emergency medical personnel are dedicated to their careers. Goolsby says that what he does is more than just a job. It’s his love, his passion.

“That’s what you’ll hear,” Longstreet says. “It’s not about retirement or the paycheck  — you love what you do. There’s a lot of challenge, but also a lot of monotony, a lot of boredom, and there isn’t an exciting run every shift, but when you get those, you know you’re making a difference.”

To find out more about the Anchorage Middletown Fire & EMS, visit amfireandems.org.

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