Oklahoma City, OK – A veteran Oklahoma City Fire Department (OKCFD) major has lost his role as senior company officer of his station after he rushed a three-year-old burn victim to the hospital on a fire truck because the ambulance was taking too long to respond.
“We don’t transport patients,” OKCFD Chief Richard Kelley told KFOR. “That’s not our job.”
The complaint against OKCFD Major Corey Britt was field by EMSA, the emergency medical and ambulance service that serves Oklahoma City.
Britt, a 25-year veteran of the department, was dispatched to a report of a toddler with second-degree burns all over her body at 7:05 p.m. last Christmas Eve, according to the news outlet.
The little girl, Quinn Amme, was scalded when the boiling oil inside a fondue pot spilled, KFOR reported.
When he arrived at the scene, Britt radioed for EMSA to step up their response, then checked in again on their location five minutes later, department records showed.
“We asked several times, you know, ‘how much longer? How much longer until they’re here?” the baby’s mother, Kristin Amme, told KFOR. “We just had to sit there and wait, and wait, and wait.”
After seven more minutes passed without an ambulance arriving, Britt told dispatch the family was opting to transport Quinn by private vehicle.
With EMSA nowhere in sight, Britt ultimately ended up driving the toddler and her mother to the hospital in the fire vehicle, KFOR reported.
By that time, approximately 25 agonizing minutes had passed since the family first called 911 for help.
“That night we really needed them,” said Quinn’s father, Corey Amme, regarding the ambulance service. “They just weren’t there. Like I said, the fire department – [we] can’t thank them enough.”
EMSA records show it has taken over an hour to respond to calls on 40 occasions in the past month, according to KFOR.
Staffing shortages and time-intensive COVID-19 decontamination processes have negatively impacted their response times, according to the company.
“We make no bones about it…we have nothing to hide,” EMSA Chief of Operations John Graham told the news outlet regarding the delayed responses. “We are struggling like many, many ambulance services.”
Kelley said Britt’s decision to transport Quinn and her mother violated OKCFD rules, as well as state law.
Britt was relieved of his position as Station 34’s senior company officer ahead of his Jan. 29 disciplinary hearing, KFOR reported.
He will be allowed to keep his pay and rank, but will now face “internal corrective measures,” Kelley told KFOR.
“None of the firefighters feel like this is fair,” one of his colleagues told the news outlet. “Yes, we know he broke policy, but he was only trying to help the child.”
The little girl’s family said they are thankful Britt made a choice to help her when she needed him.
“I appreciate every decision he made when the system failed us,” Kristin told KFOR.
“I think he made a decision not only as a first responder firefighter, but also a father,” she added. “He made the best choice for the care of his patient.”
Kristin said the EMSA’s performance was “embarrassing,” and that they “should feel bad that they failed,” KFOR reported.
Quinn is still healing from her painful burns one month after the accident, but is expected to recover.
OKC Firefighters Local 157 President Cameron Weems said the union is continuing to stand in support of Britt.
“While his actions would not be considered routine, Major Corey Britt gave to the department the reasoning behind his decision,” Weems told KFOR in a statement. “Unfortunately, obstacles arising from both COVID-19 and staffing on transport vehicles has caused issues with longer-than-normal wait times for patients on scene of an emergency.”
“Going forward, this Local looks forward to productive conversations with all parties involved to find remedies to this issue,” he continued. “In doing so we will be able to avoid putting our personnel in the unenviable position of trying to provide quality care while also being unsure when additional assistance will arrive in the form of a transport unit.”