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Ripon Fire Chief Updates Rotary Members on Ambulance Services


Photo courtesy of Glenn Kahl.

The Ripon Fire Department paramedic ambulance runs 14 to 25 emergency calls every shift, Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters told members of the Ripon Rotary at Spring Creek Country Club this week.

Bitters noted that when he joined the department there was usually sometimes only one call every three days. Now the District is having to write off approximately $1.3 million every year for MediCal and Medicare patients.

He noted that if his department had all the money the Ripon community had voted on in past years there would be no financial problem in the Ripon Consolidated Fire District. Ripon had the first paramedic ambulance in San Joaquin County years ago under paramedic Gene Vander Plaats.

He explained that Ripon is part of a region-wide ambulance system that has some 25 ambulances on the street every day in the County responding to emergency medical calls.

A lot of things are happening right now in Ripon’s 56 square mile fire district that is impacting the operation, Bitters explained. Fire Departments without an ambulance don't have the ambulance requirements, he said. The emergency medical ambulance team works a two day or 48 hour shift that often can total nearly as many as 25 ambulance runs per shift that keeps the guys running.

“Even though the taxpayers in Ripon pay for the Ripon Ambulance, we have to go to places like Stockton, Tracy, Lodi, Linden and Turlock,” the chief said. “Every call is treated like a COVID-19 call and we are going through a lot of protective masks and gowns.”

When an engine and an ambulance arrive on the scene of a medical call a paramedic goes into the home and the engine crew remains outside until they are called in to help when needed.

Bitters told the attentive Rotarians that his department drops all of its borders because it is all about saving lives.

“It’s kinda idealist in our thinking looking at it, he said, but we think it is the only way to do it,” the chief said with a new working relationship with the Salida Fire Department on the other side of the Stanislaus River.

Salida, like us, has challenges right now, he noted, they are without a fire chief and it makes sense to pool our resources to provide services.

“We are thinking out of the box and trying to serve our constituents the best we can,” he said. “We are doing things no one else has done and it’s working.”

Bitters said the cooperative effort has effectively given Ripon a second engine. They both respond to structure fires and highway collisions in the other’s district. Both departments stage atop the Hammet Road over crossing on Highway 99 until they hear on the radio they are needed on the scene.

Bitters also explained that a fire district such as Ripon has only two firefighters on an engine while a city can have as many as four personnel responding on an engine. Together that provides additional manpower at a fire scene.

“We are sharing our reserve firefighters now as well,” he added, “and have a joint fire training academy for the reserves in the works.”

In the sharing of reserve firefighters, the policies of both communities are realized during emergency responses by the two departments, he added.

Ripon also responds to occasional mutual-aid calls with Manteca most often with the new Woodward Avenue station on large structure fires.

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