Pinehurst Interim City Administrator Jerry Hood released a statement in reference to the recent walk-out of the entire Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department. In an effort to clear the air and dispel false information given out by former Fire Chief Shon Branham, Hood released the following:
“I am both disappointed and disheartened in the blatantly false information former Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department Chief Shon Branham has been relaying to the media, and more importantly, the citizens of Pinehurst. Additionally, I would like to ensure the Citizens of Pinehurst that at no time was there a stoppage or denial for fire and medical services. The City of Orange Fire Department is currently providing fire services for the City of Pinehurst. Medical services have been and will continue to be provided by Acadian Ambulance Services.
“During the spike of Covid-19 in Orange County and across the nation, it was suggested by Chief of Police and Emergency Management Coordinator Fred R. Hanauer III that the fire department should limit their responses to only life or death emergencies as not to expose the firefighters and public to undue exposure to the virus. Chief Branham chose not to honor that request citing that he had no choice but to respond to these calls due to an agreement with Acadian Ambulance Service. Upon meeting with Acadian Ambulance officials it was determined that this was not the case and that there was no such agreement in place. Furthermore, Acadian officials advised that the fire chief determines which calls they choose to respond to and that it is not dictated by them. It is the practice of Acadian Ambulance Services to notify all local jurisdictions any time they are responding to a medical call in the various jurisdictions.
“It was learned that former Chief Shon Branham had instructed their dispatch service to dispatch them to all calls Acadian was responding to regardless of nature. A follow-up into this situation revealed that although Pinehurst is listed as a first responder organization with the Texas Department of State Health Services, there are only 2 current members of the Pinehurst Fire department listed as first responders who hold a basic EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) or above. A third party listed has an expired EMT certification and another listed is no longer a Pinehurst volunteer.
“Former Chief Branham does NOT hold the necessary certifications to provide life-saving care for all medical calls that he requested to respond to. Most first responders who did not possess the proper certification and who have no formal medical training, with the exception of CPR certification, were running emergency traffic (Lights and sirens) to medical calls often arriving minutes after Acadian Ambulance was on scene. Some of these responded to nursing homes and medical clinics where trained medical staff was already on scene and AFTER they were canceled by the ambulance service.
“A recent agreement with the Bridge City Fire Department to provide dispatch services was based on the number of responses formulated on a 3-year average. Naturally, stopping unnecessary calls for service would eventually curtail the cost; however, cost savings was never put in front of human life. Once facts were learned, the Administration wanted to ensure that the services to the citizens are done so above board and with the best efficiency and effectiveness possible. Branham was entrusted by the council to provide these services and they depended on him to make decisions that were in the best interest of our citizens. Having unqualified, non-medically trained personnel responding to calls throughout the city is not only a liability when they respond ‘hands on’ with these patients, but causes undue danger when driving with emergency lights and sirens activated, exceeding the speed limit and at time disregarding traffic control devices.
“On Monday, July 27th, less than 8 hours before the staged ‘walk-out’ by Shon Branham and the fire department, I telephoned Branham to set up a meeting between him and city officials to come to a compromise as to the types of calls they would be allowed to respond to and the minimum training and certifications responders must possess. I gave Chief Branham multiple dates and times to meet, with an attempt to be flexible for all attendees. After exhausting all efforts to meet with Chief Branham, he refused to agree to meet on the dates and times given and decided to walk out on the City of Pinehurst. Chief Branham failed to contact the City of the walkout. During the upcoming meeting with Chief Branham, it was to be advised that only medically trained personnel listed on the Texas Department of State Health Services First Responder Organization website with current certifications would be allowed to respond to calls with Acadian Ambulance. This is at the advice of City Attorney Tommy Gunn and doing anything less would be irresponsible to the citizens of Pinehurst.
“I find it very concerning that former Chief Branham claimed to have the best interest of the citizens at heart but then compelled his entire department to walk out on those very citizens he took an oath to protect. The City of Pinehurst sought only to reach an agreement with the fire department that would be in the best interest of all involved, concentrating first on the needs of its citizens.
The Elected officials and the Administration will work aggressively to rebuild our Volunteer Fire Department and continue to provide the care that our citizens deserve.”
Mr. Hood would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support by those wishing to join the fire department and encourages anyone interested to pick up an application.