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ABC21 Digging Deeper: Fire chief under fire part 2

On Wednesday, ABC21 first reported concerns from Carol Griffin – who is running for St. Joseph Township Trustee – about her opponent: St. Joseph Township Fire Chief David Ringer.

"He needs to be qualified for the job he is doing for St. Joseph Township," said Griffin in an interview on Wednesday. 

Ringer does not have an EMS certification. A cause for public concern, says Griffin, because St. Joseph Township Fire Rescue responded to more than 540 calls last year – of that, 396 required EMS. That’s 73 percent of calls.

"I am going into my sixth year as fire chief," responded Chief Ringer on Wednesday. "And it has not really been an issue until the election .

Ringer says the numbers don’t matter, because the township fire department doesn’t have an ambulance. Instead it contracts with the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. 

"Keep in mind St. Joseph Township is not providing EMS service," says Ringer. "We are not an EMS department. We don’t have an ambulance. That’s not a service we offer our residents."

Which is why Ringer says he doesn’t need an EMS certification.

"Nine times out of 10," says Ringer. "There’s an ambulance right here at Target. If we get a call at 2 a.m., you have to wait for a volunteer firefighter to get out of bed and drive down to the station. By the time we get there, TRAA is already passing us to the coverage area."

And even if he’s the first one to the scene…

"On the off chance we get to the scene first," says Ringer. "And we rarely do. But if we do we’re mostly asking questions, getting patient history."

Ringer isn’t breaking any rules. The state of Indiana doesn’t require fire chiefs to have an EMS certification. 

We checked 11 Allen County fire departments. Four fire chiefs, including Ringer, do not have an EMS certification: Hoagland, Monroeville, St. Joseph Township and Woodburn).

But seven fire chiefs do: Aboite Township, Fort Wayne, Huntertown, New Haven/Adams Township, Northeast Allen County, Southwest Fire District and Washington Township). 

Southwest Fire District Fire Chief Don Patnoude spoke is a certified EMS technician.

"I don’t want to pull up to a scene and not have an idea of what I’m doing," said Patnoud over the phone.

Patnoude says he can provide the same level of care as someone in an ambulance – which he puts to use several times a week.

"If the chief is responding to medical calls," says Patnoude. "Then I think that at the very minimum they should have a medical first responder certification."

A certification Chief Ringer does not have. 

We should note, Southwest Fire District runs an ambulance service. Again, St. Joseph Township does not. 

And Ringer believes this line of attack is simply political. His primary is coming up next month. The general election is in November.

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