History of Rescue 1
The 1st ambulance used by the Bremerton Fire Department was a white Chevrolet station wagon. The 2nd vehicle used in this capacity was a 1941 Packard sedan. The department ultimately discontinued this early attempt at providing ambulance service due to vehicle maintenance concerns and manpower constraints.
Prior to the advent of prehospital care any emergency treatment of the sick or injured was deferred until arrival at a community hospital. In Bremerton, the original Harrison Hospital, located at 7th and Chester, served as the county's only general hospital from 1912-1916. Originally, the hospital building was the shipyard's 1st hospital and called "Building 89." It was purchased by C.B. Poindexter and moved in 2 sections into Bremerton. The hospital functioned for only 4 years and closed on April 25, 1916. The hospital reopened as "City General Hospital" on October 16, 1918 in response to the Spanish Flu epidemic. Despite name changes to Olympic Hospital in 1931 and Harrison Hospital in the late 1940's the hospital operated at this site.
During World War II, the Federal Public Works agency built Franklin D. Roosevelt Hospital on Marion Avenue to accommodate the growing population. In 1948 F.D.R. Hospital was renamed Puget Sound Hospital and ultimately, in August 1956, it merged operations with Harrison Hospital and consolidated service at the Marion Avenue site. The merged hospital name was officially changed to Harrison Memorial Hospital on January 9, 1957. On February 13, 1965 Harrison Memorial Hospital opened its present facility in east Bremerton.
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard's hospital actually predated Harrison Hospital. Naval Hospital was founded on March 9, 1903 on the shipyard, near the site of what is now Dry dock #1. The shipyard's rapid growth rendered the original building obsolete, and on January 27, 1911, construction was completed on 3 new buildings which became the replacement hospital. This building was occupied and began functioning on January 1, 1912. Before and during World War I, the hospital complex had to be expanded into temporary buildings because of increased need. Naval Hospital moved to its present site on Ostrich Bay in 1980.
Prehospital Medical Services
The history of modern prehospital emergency medical services began with the publication of the National Research Council's report entitled "Accidental Death and Disability - The Neglected Disease of Modern Society" in 1966. This report, more popularly known as the "White Paper," detailed the inadequacies of existing response systems to medical and traumatic incidents and served to stimulate development of emergency medical service systems nationwide.
In 1966 Dr. Frank Pantridge of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland, initiated a pre-hospital coronary care response and transport system, called the "Flying Squad," using hospital based, physician-staffed, ambulances. Dr. Pantridge's research demonstrated significant improvements in patient survivability for out-of-hospital cardiac events. In 1968 St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City started this nation's 1st mobile coronary care unit. Initially, this program also used physicians. Initiation of prehospital coronary care coincided with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company's 1st efforts to reserve the phone dialing digits 911 for emergency use.
Freedom House Ambulance Service was started by Dr. Safar of the University Health Center of Pittsburgh in 1967. Funded by grant money, Dr. Safar took 44 unemployed 18-60 year old men and gave them 3,000 hours of advanced medical training. After completing training these men responded with physicians and assisted with on-scene medical treatment and transport.
In 1969 the Miami, Florida, Fire Department, under the direction of Dr. Eugene Nagel, began the nation's 1st paramedic training program at the University of Miami Medical School. Graduates of this school were originally referred to as "Physician Extenders." These paraprofessionals transmitted heart rhythms for analysis to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital using a "portable" telemetry / defibrillator unit that weighed 54 pounds.
In Seattle, Dr. Leonard Cobb, a physician at Harborview Hospital, began collaboration with the Seattle Fire Department to develop the Medic One program. The first Medic One was a Winnebago affectionately known as "Mobie Pig" by the firefighter / paramedics assigned to it. This Seattle Fire Department unit was based at Harborview and responded with a team consisting of paramedics and a physician only to cardiac related calls.
The television show "Emergency!" debuted in 1971, popularizing the concept of paramedics and prehospital care. At the show's inception there were only 12 paramedic staffed units in the entire United States. After the television show had been in production for 4 years it was estimated that at least 50% of the nation's population was within a 10 minute response radius of a paramedic unit. Harborview Medical Center began the nation's most intensive educational program for paramedics encompassing 5,000 hours of training. The Columbus, Ohio, Fire Department puts the first prehospital coronary care unit in service manned by "squad men" without the immediate oversight and presence of a physician.
In 1972 Ken Anthony, Eddie Brown and Ray Wiggs completed their training at Olympic College, in Bremerton, and were certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). Dr. Yekel, a local physician, was their EMT program adviser. Later this same year, Rene Mason, John Wilkins and John Murray completed their EMT training at Harborview Hospital. Gary Larson planned, organized and placed into service our first dedicated rescue unit. This inaugural rescue unit was a 1967 Chevrolet van converted from use as a training vehicle. This van was also equipped with a color-coordinated, auxiliary roof-mounted aluminum boat. The 1st rescue unit was also the first to display the unique "Bremerton stripe," originally intended as flames. Frank Coppinger provided his expertise to custom paint this 1st rescue unit including this unique Bremerton stripe. Fire departments all across the country followed this example and started painting stripes on their apparatus. A total of 24 aid-calls and 649 fire-calls were responded to that year.
Nationally, 1972 heralded the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense's joint development of a helicopter medical evacuation program. In Seattle the Medic II program was established to provide C.P.R. training to the general public. Harborview Medical Center also began the nation's most intensive paramedic training program.
Larry Rankin and Randy Jackson completed EMT training at Harborview in 1973. Ten department members, including Ken Anthony, Gary Larson, Don Deitch, Ray Wiggs, John Murray, Jerry Childs, Larry Rankin and John Wilkins completed advanced scuba rescue taught by department members Jack Stodden and Rene Mason. Larry Rankin, Gary Larson, Rene Mason, and Ray Wiggs became the department's first C.P.R. instructors. All other department personnel not certified as either EMT's or Paramedics were trained in "Fire Service First Aid and Rescue."
First Aid Training
The department no longer depended on the Red Cross to conduct any of this First Aid training. Fire Chief Jack Holtine assigned a committee to establish academic affiliations for all future EMT and Paramedic training. Tacoma Community College and Fort Steilacoom, were among the several educational institutions considered. Nationally, St. Anthony's Hospital in Denver started the nation's first civilian aero medical transport service. The Star of Life was unveiled by the Department of Transportation to identify and symbolize the essential components of an emergency medical response system. Congress passed the E.M.S. Systems Act (Public Law 93-154) providing the impetus and funding for 300 new regional E.M.S. systems. There were 96 aid calls and 667 fire calls in 1973.
With their completion of training in 1974 Phil Brown, Gary Larson, Don Deitch and Ed Swan brought the total number of trained E.M.T.'s on the department to 14. Training in SCUBA continued and a total of 14 members of the Fire Department were now certified in underwater rescue. Over 200 citizens were taught CPR during the 1st full year of public CPR training. There were 210 aid-calls and 818 fire-calls in 1974.
In 1975 Dr. Nancy Caroline, a physician at the University of Pittsburgh, was awarded a contract to develop the 1st nationwide standardized paramedic training course and textbook. Locally, in September 1975, Rene Mason, Ray Wiggs and Larry Rankin began paramedic training at Tacoma Community College. Required clinical rotations for this program were performed at Tacoma General Hospital, Tacoma St. Joseph's Hospital and the Tacoma Fire Department. Bremerton citizen and ambulance company owner Mitchie King invented the K-Bar-T, a rescue tool used like a large can opener, to extricate injured people involved in car accidents. Over 500 citizens were taught CPR during the year. There were 313 aid-calls and 825 fire-calls during this year.
Advanced Life Support
In June, 1976 Rene Mason, Ray Wiggs and Larry Rankin completed training and began providing Advanced Life Support level patient care with a borrowed Physio-Control Corporation LIFEPAK (II or III), a fixed straight blade laryngoscope borrowed from local nurse anesthetist Ester Smith, and 4 pages of standing orders from Dr. Davis, who became the 1st Medical Program Director for Kitsap County. Ken Beach, a Seattle Paramedic / Firefighter working part-time with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, provided the program with the additional required equipment and medications needed to start the service.
The initiation of our paramedic service coincided with the inauguration of CEN-COM, a coordinated county-wide central dispatch and communications system. With the advent of CEN-COM, the Bremerton Fire Department discontinued decades of call receipt and self-dispatch service from Station #1. In June, the 1st emergency room physician specialists; Robert Davis, Don Treger and Kevin Ware, were hired at Harrison Hospital. Later that year, Doctors Rob O'Neill and Paul Tice were hired with funds from a Wood-Johnson Foundation grant. In September Dave Moen, Jim Hunt, Eddie Brown and Phil Brown started paramedic training in Tacoma.
On Thanksgiving Eve 1976 the new Rescue One was placed into service. A 1976 19-foot GlasPly rescue boat, purchased jointly with the Police Department, was also put into service. Seven more personnel completed EMT training for a new total of 20. Leyde Ambulance responded along with Rescue One to emergency medical calls in a huge yellow motor home ambulance affectionately known as the "Banana". Doctors Chris Chandler and Al Weisman were hired to work in the ER. There were 749 aid calls and 873 fire calls.
Dennis Perkins was hired from South Kitsap Fire District #7 as a Firefighter / Paramedic in 1977 and became the 1st lateral entry paramedic hired by the Department. Dennis also became the new E.M.T. training coordinator at Olympic College. Dave Moen, Jim Hunt, Eddie Brown and Phil Brown completed paramedic training bringing the total number of paramedics on the Department to 8. Mike Whittaker began paramedic training at Tacoma Community College. The first LIFEPAK 5 was purchased and placed in service. CPR was taught to over 750 citizens. This was the 1st year that aid-calls outnumbered fire-calls, 1658 to 910.
Teaching CPR to Citizens
Mike Whittaker completed, and Tom Ellington began paramedic training in 1978. Greg Finke and Scott Rappleye completed advanced SCUBA Rescue taught by Jack Stodden. Phil Brown was offered and accepted a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Dr. Rob O'Neill, a Harrison Hospital emergency room physician, became the Medical Program Director. 700 more citizens were taught CPR. This was the 1st year that each paramedic had to perform an average of 1 intubation and 3 IV's every month to recertify. Paramedic certifications expired every 2 years. There were 1642 aid-calls and 931 fire-calls.
In 1979 CPR instruction was provided to 1050 Bremerton citizens. There were 1776 aid-calls and 1158 fire-calls. Scott Rappleye began paramedic training at Tacoma Community College. Tom Ellington completed his Paramedic training.
Scott Rappleye completed paramedic training and John Hawkins began instruction at Tacoma Community College in 1980. Medical Program Director Bernard Greenfeld put a limit on the number of paramedics allowed in each district, based on a call volume formula. Field central intravenous lines were no longer allowed and only Doctor O'Neill continued to allow intracardiac injections. Every firefighter and lieutenant in the department was now minimally certified as an EMT The 1st 6-year medical citizen bond levy ballot passed. CPR was taught to over 1100 citizens. There were 1854 aid-calls and 960 fire-calls.
John Hawkins completed paramedic training in 1981. The 1976 Chevrolet was replaced with a new 1981 Ford van-style front-end Wheeled Coach ambulance. Stan Plyler began paramedic training at Tacoma Community College. Doctor Mark Suffis was hired in the Harrison Hospital Emergency Department. This was the 1st year that aid calls more than doubled the number of fire calls, 1995 to 837. A national study revealed that 73% of all U.S. fire departments were now involved in some level of EMS service provision.
Stan Plyler completed paramedic training in 1982 and became the last Department member sent to paramedic school until 1998. All paramedics hired from this point on would be lateral transfers. Through an $8,000 donation by the Bremerton Soroptomist's Club, the Hurst "Jaws of Life" were purchased and placed on Ladder 1. There were 1980 aid-calls and 925 fire-calls.
The Medical Officer position was created in 1983. Larry Rankin was hired to fill this newly created position. This was the last year for a rescue unit to respond from Station #1 until 1999. Dr. Mark Suffis became the Medical Program Director. There were 2045 aid-calls and 892 fire-calls.
Creating a 2nd Unit
A 2nd rescue unit was approved in 1984 to provide contracted Advanced Life Support (ALS) response to Fire Districts 8, 9 and 19 (Navy Yard City, North Perry and Rocky Point respectively). Medical Program Director Dr. Mark Suffis approved the hiring of 2 more paramedics. Aaron Espy was hired from Clallam County and Al Duke was hired from the City of Los Angeles. With the hiring of 2 additional paramedics, we were able to expand Engine 1 into a part-time ALS engine. Leonard Marks was hired by the City as Chief of the Fire Department. There were 2483 aid-calls and 915 fire-calls.
Aaron Espy left the department to work for South Kitsap Fire District #7 in 1985. Larry Rankin resigned his Medical Officer position. Ray Wiggs was appointed temporary Medical Officer. Doctor Guy Earle was later hired as Dr. Suffis' permanent replacement as Medical Program Director. Medics began calling on the new helicopter service from AirLift NW instead of calling for M.A.S.T. (Military Assistance in Safety and Traffic) when patients needed to go to Seattle trauma facilities. This service was started in Seattle by Harborview Hospital emergency services director Dr. Michael Copass. There were 2885 aid-calls and 989 fire-calls.
John Hawkins was promoted to Medical Officer in 1986. There were 2880 aid-calls and 846 fire-calls.
In 1987 Ray Wiggs and Dennis Perkins resigned as paramedics to continue as firefighters. Each had put in 11 years as paramedics. Richard Tate, a Paramedic from Oregon was hired in August. This was the 1st year that the number of aid calls tripled that of fire calls. There were 3217 aid-calls and 943 fire-calls.
Two new 1988 Chevrolet Road Rescue ambulances were purchased and placed in service. Dick Johnson was hired as a paramedic. Two new Physio-Control LIFEPAK 10's were purchased. This was the 1st year it became a requirement to pass the American Heart Association's Advanced Cardiac Life Support class for recertification. Paramedics also learned how to initiate infusions in infant and pediatric patients. The old 1981 Ford Wheeled Coach ambulance was sold to the Zilah Fire Department in eastern Washington. There were 3401 aid-calls and 959 fire-calls.
Chief Leonard Marks retired and Chet Meigs was appointed as acting Chief. Three new paramedics were hired: Andy Tait, from Las Vegas, Nevada; Dave Jose, from Pierce County and Jim Vaughan from Oakland, California. Dave Moen was promoted to Lieutenant but retained his certification until 1990. John Hawkins resigned as Medical Officer to take a Lieutenant's position and did not recertify as a paramedic. Al Duke, Scott Rappleye, and Stan Plyler were appointed as provisional Medical Officers, serving 3 months each. Dr. Luke Magnotto was hired as Medical Program Director. There were 3548 aid-calls and 940 fire-calls.
Four new paramedics were hired in 1990: Doug Baier from the Livonia (Michigan) Fire Department; Jim Hardy from Kitsap County Fire District 15; Mike Stead from Aberdeen Fire Department and Mike Kroll from Kitsap County Fire District 15. Scott Rappleye transferred to Fire Prevention although he recertified and continued to maintain his certification until 1992. There were 3442 aid-calls and 1098 fire-calls.
Deputy Fire Chief Mick McKinley was instrumental in having "Opti-Com" installed throughout the city, with the majority of the funding being provided by Kitsap Transit. With the implementation of this system, fire and rescue units no longer had to call for intersection warning lights. 1991 was also the first year for the new 3-year paramedic recertification requirement. Andy Tait left Bremerton for a position with King County Medic One program and began paramedic training at Harborview Medical Center. Al Duke was promoted to Medical Officer. Mike Elliot and Mike Sherman were hired by the Bremerton Fire Department after working for Kitsap County Fire District 1. There were 3,801 aid-calls and 1,223 fire-calls.
Rescue 1 units began Advanced Life Support transports to the hospital for the 1st time in 1992. This brought to an end the old system of having a private B.L.S. unit transport the patient with a Bremerton Fire Department Paramedic onboard when necessary. Scott Rappleye became provisional Fire Marshal and did not recertify. Mark Schmidt, from the Sequim Fire Department, was hired. Cellular phones were put into service. The 3rd consecutive 6-year medical levy passed. There were 4005 aid-calls.
In 1993 the entire county adopted a standardized designation system re-categorizing our "Rescue Units" as "Medic Units." Bremerton now operates Medics 2 and 3. Former Paramedic Jim Hunt began working in the Harrison Memorial Hospital Emergency Department as an R.N. Fire Chief Mick McKinley put a new Work Boats NW Rescue boat into service. There were 4335 aid-calls.
In 1994 Al Duke was promoted to Assistant Chief and Stan Plyler became the Captain / Medical Officer. The R-1 fund purchased 3 new LIFEPAK 300 semi-automatic defibrillators and they were placed on the first line engines. This year the paramedics started using Succinycholine, a paralytic drug used in performing rapid sequence intubation for critically ill or injured patients. John Payne, a recent graduate of the Tacoma Community College Paramedic Program and a former "resident firefighter" from Kitsap County Fire District #18 was hired. Dean Shelton, a graduate of the Oregon Health Sciences University Paramedic Program, was hired. There were 4950 aid-calls and 1295 fire-calls.
By 1995, the 20th anniversary of our emergency medical response program, only Larry Rankin, remained as a practicing paramedic from the original group. Jim Vaughn resigned January on 18th. Bremerton Fire began offering TB tests and requiring fit testing for special filter masks to prevent infection from airborne transmissible diseases. On March 23, the program took delivery of a new Chevrolet diesel ambulance built by Braun NW in Chehalis, WA. There were 5098 aid-calls.
In February 1996 Joel Wulf a paramedic from Lancaster, California was hired. Mike Kroll resigned to take a position as a Firefighter / Paramedic with the Camas Fire Department. Anna Sproles was also hired in February and became the first female Firefighter / EMT in the department's history. Rob Ashmore a Paramedic from Ventura County, California was hired on April 1. During this year the department began to direct 30% from each transport fee collected to go into a designated vehicle replacement fund. This is the first year that aid call quadrupled fire calls. There were 5448 aid-calls and 1260 fire-calls.
In 1997 Jim Hendryx, formerly with Kitsap County Fire District 18 (Poulsbo) was hired. Mike Elliott resigned to take a job as an EMS Administrator in Angel Fire, New Mexico. Dean Shelton resigned to take a position as Firefighter / Paramedic with the Marysville Fire Department. On April 24, we took delivery of a 1997 Chevrolet diesel ambulance from Braun NW of Chehalis, WA. This was the second ambulance purchased from this factory. Firefighter / EMT Darren Rivers started paramedic school with the new paramedic program at Tacoma Fire Department. Darren became the first department member sent to paramedic school since 1981. There were 4996 aid-calls. This was the 1st decrease in medical calls since 1986.
Adding to the Team
On February 17, 1998 Paramedics Rick Leo and Fred Schneider were hired. Rick Leo came from American Medical Response in Pierce County and Fred Schneider came from Long Beach, Washington. Firefighter / EMT Darren Rivers graduated from Tacoma Fire Department's paramedic program. Jim Hardy left the Paramedic service and went into the fire prevention office on November 16th to be the public educator / inspector. Firefighter / EMT Tab Severns began the Tacoma Fire Department paramedic program. During the last quarter of 1998 Bremerton Fire and Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue agreed to allow Bremerton Fire units to respond into parts of CKF&R on a trial basis. Contractual negotiations were completed that would allow Bremerton Fire and medical units to automatically respond to CKF&R in specified areas north of the city limits. There were 5251 aid-calls.
In November 1999 Anna Sproles resigned to reenlist in the U.S. Navy. Vincent Hlavaty was hired from Mason County Medic 5.
The Bremerton Fire Department's EMS program was unique in many respects. Unlike other programs in most regions of the country our department's personnel were the inciting force behind the "Rescue 1" program. Their primary motivation appeared solely to be a sincere desire to provide the best service possible to the citizens of Bremerton.