EMS Response Time Questioned in Fatal Detroit Fire

One young boy is dead, and his brother is critically injured, after being pulled from a Detroit house fire, reports The Detroit News.

The children — 6-year-old Miguel Chavez and 4-year-old Julio Chavez — were discovered alone in the bathroom at an occupied home where a fire had broken out.

“It’s a tragedy,” Arson Captain Frank Maiorana said.

The boys were originally transported to a hospital by a rescue squad after an EMS unit wasn’t available to immediately respond to the fire.
Detroit Fire officials said personnel from Rescue Squad 4 performed CPR on both children on the way to Henry Ford Hospital. The 4-year-old has since been transferred to Children’s Hospital. Both suffered from severe smoke inhalation, Maiorana said.

Arson investigators couldn’t nail down the cause of the fire, but Maiorana said it was most likely accidental.

Capt. Dale Bradley said the 911 call for the fire came in at 6:59 a.m. and Squad 4 arrived five minutes later. However, it wasn’t until a second 911 call came in at 7:12 a.m. that the Fire Department was notified the upstairs was occupied. EMS was dispatched at 7:13 a.m., but Squad 4 made the decision to transport the boys themselves at 7:15 a.m.

“When it came in, it came in as a house fire,” Bradley said. “And EMS isn’t normally dispatched to a dwelling fire unless the caller indicates people are trapped inside.”

Although a Rescue Squad is equipped with medical equipment, Jaws of Life, generators and ropes for rescue, one isn’t typically used as a substitute for an EMS rig, fire officials said.

“They don’t do that normally, but EMS wasn’t on the scene, and where minutes count, they have oxygen and everything handy,” Senior Chief Lewis Roelans said.

Fire officials say Medic 5, stationed road 6.2 miles away near the intersection of Joy and Southfield, was called to the fire. Two other ambulances were stationed closer to the scene, but one was responding to a caller with back pain and the other was broken down at the time.

Miguel Chavez’s death is the seventh fire-related fatality in the city for 2013. The emergency response drew criticism Tuesday from the city’s fire union president, Dan McNamara.

“This continues to be a major problem,” McNamara said. “With the company closings they did, we’re now seeing increased response times, and a higher number of causalities and injuries, but nobody in the administration seems to be paying attention. They’re not doing anything about it.”

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