|The House of Delegates Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services Committee considered and passed several bills on Wednesday. Here is a rundown:
HB3153 supports VFDs, EMS squads
House Bill 3153, relating to distribution of certain taxes and surcharges to benefit volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments and emergency medical services providers, was quickly passed with no discussion. It was reviewed last week.
The bill goes to the Finance Committee.
Bill examines firefighters serving as ambulance drivers
House Bill 2760 passed the Committee and is second-referenced to the House Government Organization Committee. It would permit firefighters to drive ambulances when both attendants are needed to administer patient care.
The lead sponsor, Delegate Rolland Jennings of Preston County, was asked what problem this bill was attempting to solve. He said no one may be available to drive the ambulance in the case of a critical patient or when CPR is required.
The Committee adopted an amendment to the bill that would require a firefighter to have emergency vehicle certification to drive an ambulance.
Delegate Jennings said driving a firetruck is very different than driving an ambulance. He said he is a former paramedic, and the situation arises frequently.
Committee discusses safe disposal of foam
House Bill 2860, which provides for the safe disposal of used aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), passed the Committee and is second-referenced to the House Government Organization Committee.
Delegate Joe Statler of Monongalia County asked State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree whether firefighters still use AFFF at airports. Fire Marshal Tyree said they do, and the Air Guard may retain it.
“Local fire departments don’t have the means of disposing,” Fire Marshal Tyree said, noting cost is a concern.
The issue of deaths related directly linked to the foam was discussed.
Fire Marshal Tyree said that while he couldn’t confirm it was directly linked, there have been deaths.
Delegate Clay Riley of Harrison County asked about in-state disposal sites and whether departments are required to get rid of the foam.
Fire Marshal Tyree responded that three to five sites operate in the state, and several exist out of state. He acknowledged that it does pose a risk to firefighters. Use of the foam is now restricted to active emergencies, he said.
Bill focuses on cadets’ role at emergency sites
The Committee had a lengthy discussion about House Bill 3026, which would permit cadets to perform minor and nonhazardous tasks at a fire scene.
The bill passed and is second-referenced to the House Government Organization Committee.
Delegate Rolland Jennings of Preston County asked State Fire Marshal Tyree whether the bill posed a problem without cadets receiving proper training. Tyree responded that it could cause a large problem in several ways, including liability, losing insurance coverage, and safety.
Fire Marshal Tyree said trainees can go on a fire scene after the first 36-hour module of training. After four modules of training, totaling 128 hours, they can do anything at a fire scene. He said hose assistance and tool retrieval is included in the first module.
According to Tyree, about 35% of fire departments use modular training, and 65% use traditional training.
“Modular is more convenient and allows people to participate earlier,” he said.
Asked what people could do if they haven’t reached Level 1 firefighter status that requires 128 hours, Tyree said they cannot be on a fire scene. After completing Module 1, they can be on a firetruck.
“There are several things they can do, but firefighting requires more training,” Tyree said.
Delegate Henry Dillon of Wayne County asked for testimony from Dave Caudle, a retired fire chief for Ceredo. Delegate Dillon asked about staffing fire departments.
Mr. Caudle said, “People don’t want to volunteer to do anything anymore.”
He added that training requirements ask a lot from people, and he suggested that some information could be cut out.
“We’re not teaching it smart,” he said.
Delegate Jennings expressed opposition to the bill unless volunteers had at least finished Module 1. He emphasized that a fire chief is totally responsible for a scene, and efficiency suffers if trained volunteers have to supervise the untrained.
Several delegates expressed similar concerns but thought those could be worked out in the House Government Organization Committee.