Lift assists common, valuable community service


JASPER — It’s not in the name, so you might be surprised to learn that many of the runs the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department makes have nothing to do with fires.

Often, trained personnel are dispatched to help someone up.

In 2019, the department responded to 413 calls, and 220 of them were medical assistance calls — meaning more than 50% of calls sent first responders on the city department to assist hospital personnel in providing emergency care.

JVFD Chief Kenny Hochgesang estimated that just under a third of those medical calls were “lift assists,” in which volunteers are sent out to residents who need help up. For the majority of them, no fire truck responds.

“It’s a case where we’re providing a service that’s very valuable for the public,” Hochgesang said. “To be able to have somebody to go out and help do that. So, it’s a valued service.”

Those who call and request lift assistance aren’t always elderly, Hochgesang explained. And the service is valuable for anyone who needs it.

“If we weren’t there to do that, they would have to rely on friends and family and neighbors to go provide that service,” Hochgesang said. “To go help people, whether it be a larger person or someone that needs help getting up. They know there’s someone there they can call to get help.”

Though it’s rare, sometimes, volunteers have been dispatched to the same place to conduct multiple lift assists in a single night. At last week’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide referenced an incident in which JVFD personnel were dispatched to the same address three times in a 24-hour period for lift assists.

“I think as a city, we want to take a look at that,” Vonderheide said. ”And see if there’s something we can do to deter just that repeated use.”

As the city has grown, so has the number of calls the JVFD receives.

“I just think that as Jasper continues to grow, we have more residents, more homes, more apartments, more buildings, more business — Jasper’s going to grow,” Hochgesang said. “And as numbers increase for everyone, ours increase as well.”

In 2018, the department responded to 361 medical-, fire- and faulty-alarm-related incidents — eight more than it fielded in 2017. In 2016, the department responded to just 271 service calls, and members shipped out to even fewer scenes prior to that.

Hochgesang said the types of medical calls the department responds to vary. Whether they are accidents or lift assists, if an ambulance isn’t available or needs assistance, JVFD members are called to help.

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