I don’t think there’s a nice way to put this. So here goes: The weight of the community has taken its toll on the backs of the city’s firefighters.
Put simply, people are getting heavier, in Bremerton and around the country. And when they have medical issues that require a ride to the hospital, the city’s fire department must be able to lift them inside the back of the ambulance. Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke told the City Council Wednesday that back issues are a primary concern for the department, and illuminated the problem with this example: a 500+ pound resident here in the city has been transported by crews this year 54 times.
It has gotten to the point that Duke successfully argued at Wednesday’s meeting for three power-lifts that will do the job mechanically when attached to a gurney. The cost to city residents: $124,000.
Bremerton isn’t the first agency in Kitsap to get the gurneys, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue already has them, Duke said. There’s likely others, too, he added.
The City Council was supportive of the move. Councilwoman Leslie Daugs said it will indeed prevent back injuries. Councilman Richard Huddy said that two-thirds of Americans are overweight. The measure to fund the gurneys, made by Michigan-based Stryker EMS, passed 6-0 at Wednesday’s meeting.
The City Council also approved the fire department’s refurbishment of two ambulances by installing new Dodge Diesel Chassis within them. Doing so will cost $269,000 as opposed to $450,000 for new ambulances, Duke told the Council.
Both the gurneys and ambulance refurbishments are funded through a $4.5 million public safety bond passed by voters in November 2015. The bond raised property taxes in the city by 22 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value, and will also fund new vehicles, trucks and improvements at fire stations.