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July 26, 2018

Franklinton Fire Chief Responds to Criticisms

"Good Evening Everyone, First I would like to thank everyone for your continued support of our town and our Fire Department. In light of recent statements made during our latest council meeting Tuesday night July 24th a concerned citizen from our out of town Fire District questioned our town and brought to light some issues that they feel needed to be addressed with our department. I would like to address a couple of these concerns to the best of my ability this evening.

(See the video segment below from the council meeting ) 

1st - I would like to reassure the public that in no way shape or form are your Lives, Property or Lively hood in Jeopardy due to any lacking of capabilities of my department. Some of you may know and yet some of you may not but our department is only Staffed 7 days a week from 8:00AM to 4:00 PM. during these hours manpower is on hand AT OUR STATION to respond to any and all Emergencies that may arise. Outside of those hours we are 100% Volunteer including myself as Fire Chief I am fully

volunteer and receive no funding from the Town of Franklinton unless I fill in hours that I am short on manpower during the weekends because yes I do work a Fulltime Job because as Volunteers we do have to provide for our family's. Granted we aren't here at the station directly but most of us are right here in town, not far from the station. For me I'm right here on Washington street by Magee Autoplex. as far as Fire concerned yes I do have to respond to the station in my personal vehicle to pickup an apparatus to go and attack a fire and or Pickup our Rescue Truck with the Jaws of Life and get it where it needs to go. As far as Medical calls, I keep a fully stocked medical bag in my personal pickup truck with Oxygen included to address any emergencies that I am capable of Providing care for at my Level of EMR. I do not carry Narcan, my rescue Trucks do not carry Narcan. Our Medical Protocols are not written to allow us to carry Narcan by our Medical Director which is a local Dr. in Franklinton. Day and/or Night any and all medical calls we respond to with an exception of maybe 1 or 2 unless Northshore EMS is really busy they are either going on scene with us or right before or right after us, this includes our out of town district that we cover. I was appointed Fire chief in October of 2016, and since then to my knowledge no one that myself or my deputy and assistant chief can recall has lost their life to neglect on our part due to not carrying these drugs that we are now allowed to carry. If I am wrong would someone please correct me because we are not aware of it. As Far as our EMR's having bags with gear available to them we are working towards filling that gap, this year I have 3 New Volunteers who are completing an EMR course at Kentwood Fire Department. Once this course is complete, and we complete the refresher for the rest of us, we will be placing new EMR bags in the hands of Qualified Personnel this year. These bags will provide them the tools they need to assess a Patient check Vitals, Open Airways and/or initiate CPR until a Paramedic Unit can arrive and take over patient care.
2nd - Personal Protective Equipment, over the years we have went through many sets of turnout gear. We try to get new sets of gear every year when extra funding including grants are available which usually amounts to 4 sets per year. As we replace the older turnout gear it is handed down to our newer members until they become capable to make an interior attack, then their names are put on the list for the next purchase to get them newer and better gear. This is the same with any Volunteer department you go to. If we were a professionally paid department everyone would get new gear as soon as they were hired on but our budget does not support either so we have to make the best of what we have. As far as firefighter not wearing their PPE Part of that Statement is correct some of it is false. During an initial attack all of our firefighters are in Full turnout gear, once the blaze is knocked down and cooled down to where we are only working on a few hotspots some of my guys will remove their coats and remain in their pant boots helmet and gloves to work on overhaul and hotspots and for investigation to see if the scene meets criteria for The State Fire Marshalls office come out and Investigate further. They will not come out of full turnout gear unless atmospheric conditions are favorable and the scene is safe enough to proceed doing so. As far as not wearing clothes, Every man and woman on our department has clothes on under their turnout gear, however one of our Assistant Chiefs likes to wear shirts with the sleeves cut off, we will not name any names because anyone familiar with Franklinton Fire Department knows exactly who that is. All I'm gonna say is Cutoff Sleeves and Knee high socks!!! lol.
3rd - Our Water Supply, the Town of Franklinton as everyone knows has a hydrant system in place. We cant Deny that the pressure at some of these hydrants are not that great, Some of the Hydrants are leaking and or broken, Those issues are being addressed with Superintendent Mcmasters with City Shop. The Mayor currently has them repairing broken and leaking Fire Hydrants across the City as we speak, In case some of you do not know the reasoning that's why in some areas of town they have been issuing boil water advisories due to the fact they are trying to get all of these hydrants operational like they should be. However in the event we experience water failure, weak pressure, or other water issues we have 4 engines and a tanker, all 4 of our engines carries 1000 Gallons of Water, our Tanker Carries 3300 Gallons of Water alone and if we know it is an area that has no hydrants broken Hydrants or low pressure, along with our Tanker that will hold us over long enough for help we can call in additional Tankers from Local Fire Districts Including Enon, Pine, Hackley, Richardson, and Bonner Creek. That's what fire departments are about we have mutual aid signed with every department in Washington Parish as well as Folsom, we respond to anywhere we are needed for assistance and our fellow volunteers in neighboring districts come to our aid when we need theirs.
4th - Training, Each Month we have some form of Training sometimes on multiple dates each month. Our typical Training Dates are the 2nd Monday of each month. Everyone of these trainings we have are all scheduled classes with LSU Instructors to be exact Mr. Robert Hecker retired From Mandeville Fire, and his crew provide these trainings. These are all accredited LSU Firefighter 1 Certified courses. These courses are provided to us at NO EXPENSE to the town. these courses give every firefighter in the parish the opportunity to receive his hazmat and Firefighter Certifications so that they can achieve a Qualified Firefighter 1 Status. Once they have completed each section of these courses each member is allowed to attend a testing date at various locations which is Usually at the Mandeville or Slidell Fire Training Facilities which are our closest tests. Sometimes during the course of our careers as a volunteer you have to man up and enter a house with a trained firefighter whether you are fully certified as Firefighter 1 or not. But you will not be going in alone. We have a 2 man rule reguardless. No firefighter will enter a house alone on an initial attack and no untrained uncapable firefighter will be going into a burning structure unless he has completed proper training to do so. We strive not to be the Department that just pulls up on a fire scene and sprays water in the windows. We do not pull up on a wreck scene and hand the nearest police officer or paramedic the Jaws of life. We do our jobs we are trained to do. And we do train regularly, LSU Classes or not, We work with our new people every chance we can get to show them our equipment and where it is on these trucks, how to operate the pump controls so we don't have to put a new volunteer in harms way until they receive proper training and have spent sufficient time on our department. Long Story Short we are providing every opportunity for a volunteer to get the training that is required of them but when cannot afford nor does a volunteer Firefighter have the time away from their job and Family to attend a 13 Week Rookie School at LSU Campus to achieve these certifications. And this is not just us, this is every department in Washington Parish with the exception of Bogalusa because they are a fully paid Fire Department with no volunteers and they have a greater budget than what we have in order to pay for these trainings when they have to hire a new man or woman.
5th - Safety Officer, We do not have a designated Safety Officer for our Department, This role falls into responsibility of myself and my 2 chiefs below me. This is something that unfortunately has to be preached over and over into the heads of all of our members. Although some scenes we may have the manpower show up to put someone on dedicated safety and accountability and attempt to watch out for others and remind them of the hazards that are present each person on our department is trained over and over again is to assess any and all hazards that may be present before entering into Fire Rescue or Medical Incidents.
6th - Equipment. The Franklinton Fire Department has a variety of capable equipment which consists of the following:
4 Fire Engines,
1992 Ford, 1000 GPM Pump, 1000 Gallons of Water
1995 Ford, 1250 GPM Pump, 1000 Gallons of Water
1999 Ferrera Custom, 1250 Pump, 1000 Gallons of Water
2003 International, 1250 Pump, 1000 Gallons of Water
2 Rescue Trucks,
2005 Freightliner Medium Rescue
2003 Chevy 2500HD Light Rescue
Both of these units carry our Medical Equipment, Cascade Bottles to fill our SCBA (Air Pack) Bottles, Jaws of Life on each Truck, Rope Rescue and Water Rescue Equipment along with a multitude of miscellaneous tools used for Fire Rescue Operations.
1 1995 75' Smeal Ladder Truck, 1250 GPM Pump, 500 Gallons of Water
1 2015 Ford F350 Brush Truck with skid unit for Wildland Firefighting
1 3300 Gallon Tanker.
As you can see for a small town we have a rather large fleet that operates out of 1 central station in the heart of Franklinton. Several of these units have some age with them.
We don't have the newest or the best Apparatus to work with, but each one of our trucks whether they need to be replaced or not are fully functional and will suffice all of our needs until we can find the funding through grants, Financing or other means to replace these apparatus. A new base model Fire Engine which was quoted to me approximately 1 month ago is around $300,000.00. This is why the last few vehicle purchases we have made have been used apparatus that still have plenty of life left in them. But as far as equipment I will take anyone of these trucks up to any response, other than a out of the blue maintenance issue or random failure we are not afraid for our lives when driving or operating these vehicles.
At this moment we are primarily focused on replacing our tanker, it has many miles on it and it was designed as a water hauler only. It has no pumping capability and is either dumped into a portable drafting pond or gravity fed into the side of one of our engines. Sometime this requires use of a second engine depending on the layout of our scenes. Our goal is to purchase a used Tanker our build on a Used Chassis, so that we can have both water hauling functionality and pumping capability from that tanker. Hopefully soon with the approval of the Mayor and Council we can get this process moving.
Rescue 2 will be our replacement choice following our tanker, originally this vehicle was purchased as a medical truck only. According to Property Insurance Association of Louisiana who grades our department every 5 years which affects everyones fire Insurance within our coverage area, there is a long list of equipment that is required to be carried on this truck to receive full points as a service unit so it is fairly loaded with equipment and will soon need to be upgraded to a vehicle the size of an F-550 with a small rescue body on it to safely carry this equipment and the other specialized rescue equipment that we need at our grasps.
8th Compliance - The Franklinton Fire Department is in compliance with any and all required Rules and Regulations. However some of these are recommended and not required which can be adapted to each department. However we have not applied and/or received any federal, state or other monies that we were not qualified to get and all monies that have been received were spent within the full guidelines of the terms of that funding source.
And in Close, again I want to reassure all Citizens that we are ready to go, we are capable to handle the call, we are here for you all in your time of need. there is no reason why anyone should sleep at night wondering if when called upon we will not be able to provide you the services that you pay for.
My Name is Dustin Wascom, I am the Fire Chief of Franklinton Fire Department, I am a new Chief and have a ways to go before I achieve my long term goals for myself and this Department. I am a human being I am not perfect, and I may be wrong from time to time or pretty regular but I will stand here with you all to be corrected. I will promise you this, that me and my Department will give you all our heart and soul to help you in your time of need. I am available 24/7, my cell phone number is 985-415-7317. If you have any doubts or concerns reguarding this department and what you tax dollars are being spent on call, text, or email me 24/7 My cellphone is always on. Thank you to the Entire Town for allowing me this chance to serve my community."

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