PORT ORCHARD — The community served by South Kitsap Fire and Rescue is being reminded on social media about how the agency’s services extend beyond putting out house blazes and extinguishing grass fires — and how those who work for SKFR have made a difference in the lives of those they’ve touched over the years.
SKFR Chief Jeff Faucett said the fire department has undergone a comprehensive strategic planning process over the past several months with a focus on raising the department’s level of community support.
“While we do communicate our success stories, they usually involve a fire or somebody losing their home,” Faucett said. “But we typically don’t talk about all the good stuff. We’ve really made a concerted effort through social media and our press releases to get the good news out.”
That effort to inform the community coincides with the upcoming emergency medical services (EMS) levy before voters in August. Faucett said that the story of the levy isn’t just about raising taxes.
“That’s part of how we keep the service going, but we’re telling the story about how we keep the service going — and why we do it.”
Seven out of 10 calls SKFR receives for aid involve medical crises. That’s why Faucett said his agency is reminding citizens of the importance of EMS to the community through short vignettes provided by local residents who were recipients of SKFR emergency assistance.
Just last week, he said, the agency’s EMS personnel saved the life of an unresponsive man in his back yard who was spotted by men working on a nearby roof. Thanks to the work of the EMS crew, the man was revived and has recovered.
’The good stuff’
“When you call 911, there’s some good stuff that comes out of it as a result of the professionalism of the firefighters out there,” Faucett.
Faucett said SKFR’s EMS levy will expire at the end of this year. The community is being asked to renew it in the Aug. 3 primary election at the same rate previously approved by voters: $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Here are a few of those “good news” stories SKFR has shared with the community:
Their Little Iron Man
Stephanie Lentell and her family call Michael their “Little Iron Man.” They coined this superhero nickname to help their child understand the medical device he has in his stomach to keep his heart beating. Four years ago, her husband Brion called 911 while Stephanie started CPR when he found Michael unconscious at the top of the stairs. Michael’s body was limp, and he was only taking breaths every 20 seconds.
SKFR paramedics arrived quickly and took over CPR. They used a defibrillator to shock and stabilize Michael’s heart before rushing him to the hospital where doctors discovered he had an irregular heart rhythm that was later identified as part of a condition known as Timothy Syndrome, Type 2.
Today, Michael is a happy and healthy 7-year-old who loves to bike, go as high as he can on swings and his trampoline, and play with his sister, brothers and dogs. He recently took up body surfing when the family moved to Florida.
Stephanie used her experience to become a certified CPR instructor and teach others. She taught CPR to teachers in the South Kitsap schools and remains a certified instructor today.
“It’s a fact that EMS saved Michael’s life, Lentell said. “I’m thankful that we had such a program with paramedics who knew what to do for my son.”
In memory of Al Kono
Stephanie Kono of Port Orchard remembers the kindness and caring of the emergency personnel who responded to an EMS call at her family’s store.
“When my father was shot, paramedics arrived fast and rushed him to a helicopter for the flight to a trauma center. Our family was so moved to see them again at his funeral. It was clear they cared about our family, and that made a difference to us during a very sad time.
“For me, EMS is more than a service,” she said. “It’s about the caring behind the people who provide it.”
One ‘Northwest Afternoon’
Cindi Rinehart-Brooks talks about her heart stopping with all of the romance that she brought to her position recapping soap operas on “Northwest Afternoon” for so many years on KOMO-TV.
“These handsome men carried me on a stretcher through the snow,” Rinehart-Brooks said. “I felt like Snow White.”
The truth was a bit more serious than that. During a bad snowstorm in 2019, her husband Jim Brooks called 911 when Cindi’s heart had stopped. Jim performed CPR long enough to unlock the door for paramedics after Cindi regained consciousness. The next time she passed out, paramedics were there with a defibrillator to shock her heart before taking her to the hospital.
“One thing that stuck with me was how much they cared,” Brooks said. “That made me feel good, especially when you’re watching them work on someone you love so much.”
Brooks said he was touched to see Brian Dyste, the SKFR paramedic who had responded to the call, walk out of Cindi’s room the next day. Dyste had been checking to see how she was doing.
The family has called 911 twice more for Cindi — a stroke a few months later and then a seizure last year. Cindi says she doesn’t remember much of those events, but she’s glad that SKFR has a fast, professional EMS program.
“Jimmy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage last August,” she said. “I’m glad we both were around to see that.”
More information about SKFR and the EMS level renewal can be found at skfr.org.