Former chief, others honored by Newton Fire/EMS

Retired Chief Jim Werries, left, Retired Capt. Leroy Dick, center and Darin Werries, right.

From left to right: Newton Fire/EMS Capt. Luke Edwards, Christina Lynn Mattingly, Jared Bergner, Darrell Graves, Aaron Wald and Vincent Quentin

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to retired Chief Jim Werries by retired Capt. Leroy Dyck at the annual Newton Fire/EMS Awards Reception held Thursday night.

Dyck met Werries in 1967 when he applied for a job at Metropolitan Ambulance, a subdivision of a private ambulance corporation headquartered in Wichita.

Werries was passionate about providing the best ambulance services possible, even with budget restrictions and older equipment.

“We personally paid for some plywood and made three backboards — the first three backboards in Harvey County,” Dyck said.

When the city of Newton created its own ambulance department on Jan. 1, 1970, Werries was put in charge.

“There were a lot of things that had to be done to make that happen … Werries was the man for the job,” Dyck said. “He was the right man at the right time.”

Werries’ attention to detail could be seen in every aspect, from the way sheets and blankets were folded to the clip-on ties ambulance personnel wore.

“Chief Werries was adamant that we acted professionally while on a call and the public noticed the difference,” Dyck said.

During inclement weather, Werries made sure the ambulance was washed after every call.

“We also had to make sure the tops of the ambulances were clean,” Dyck recalled. “His reasoning was that people in the second story could look down and see the top of the ambulance and if we had washed it or if it would be dirty.”

The ambulance station was also expected to be clean.

“I didn’t know this a long time, but he used to go around and place toothpicks along the walls to see if the floors were being mopped,” Dyck said.

Werries was instrumental in implementing radio systems, started the practice of taking blood pressure on the ambulance and was an early adopter of CPR.

When ambulance personnel ended up with more items than they could carry into a house to take care of a patient in their hands, Werries bought a vinyl suitcase from Alco.

“This became our first jump kit and it worked well for many years,” Dyck said.

Another step forward for Newton’s ambulance department came in 1973 when Dr. Frances Allen insisted on getting a defibrillator on board. Paying for the machine was the initial hurdle, but community support prevailed.

“The Lions Club undertook the project with gusto and we had one of the best pancake days we’d ever had,” Dyck said.

Since Werries and Dyck were the only two who were trained to use the defibrillator, they outfitted their personal cars with red lights and sirens to be able to respond to a call at any time.

“Newton Ambulance Department became the first service in the state of Kansas to provide advanced cardiac care,” Dyck said. ”…Field saves became routine.”

One day, investigative reporter Charlie Plimpton from KAKE in Wichita came up to find out how Newton’s ambulance service worked.

“While he was doing interviews in the station, we happened to receive a call for a Code Blue,” Dyck said.

Plimpton was allowed to ride along for the call, but was told he couldn’t go inside the house to film anything. Upon arriving, they found the patient collapsed outside and successfully used the defibrillator to revive him. The whole incident was shown on that night’s evening news.

On Jan. 1, 1997, Newton’s fire and ambulance departments were combined.

“A lot of credit for the fine Fire/EMS department that we have today goes to Chief Werries for speaking up for what was right back then,” Dyck said.

Other recognition given out at the awards reception included an Outstanding Achievement Award for Firefighter/Paramedic/Acting Officer Aaron Wald.

In 2013, Wald volunteered to be a bone marrow donor, hoping to be a match for a young girl in the community fighting cancer. Though he was not a match then, he received a call five years later.

“They informed him he was a match for a patient who needed a lifesaving stem cell and white blood cell donation,” said Capt. Luke Edwards.

Agreeing to go through with the donation, Wald flew to Portland in November 2018 for the testing and donation process, which included a series of painful injections.

“Words cannot accurately describe how highly personal and incredibly self-rewarding the experience was for me,” Wald said. “I would encourage everyone who meets the requirements to get on the registry. It’s quick, painless and, hopefully, can save a life.”

A Lifesaver Award was presented to Wald along with Jared Bergner, Vincent Quentin and Darrell Graves.

“On the morning of Aug. 25, we received a call for a patient experiencing chest pain,” Edwards said.

Christina Lynn Mattingly was loaded in the ambulance, with the crew intending to take her to a hospital in Wichita.

“Before they got a block down the road, the patient stated that she felt numb and she went unresponsive after that. When paramedics checked for a pulse, they did not find it,” Edwards said. “The patient had gone into cardiac arrest.”

Ambulance personnel began CPR and performed defibrillation until the patient regained consciousness. Mattingly later went on to regain full neurological function.

Division Chief Phil Beebe stated 2018 was a challenging year for Newton Fire/EMS because it was, at one point, short six positions.

“We found ourselves, most days, at minimum staffing,” Beebe said.

In Sept. 2018, five new recruits — Dylan Richardson, Joseph Stovall, Cole Sturgeon, Stephen Gay and Jake Lindenmeyer — were added to the roster.

“Over the past six months since they completed their rookie training academy, they have really stepped up,” Beebe said.

The newest firefighters have faced structure and grass fires, injury accidents and one particularly challenging commercial fire.

“They said they could hardly see in front of their faces, it was so dark and black in there, but yet they went in together as a team,” Beebe said.

Peivi Tauiliili was honored with a Preceptor Award for his work training Trevor Yoder, the most recent new hire at Newton Fire/EMS.

“Being a preceptor for a paramedics team is a huge time commitment and is absolutely worthy of recognition,” Beebe said.

Fire Marshal Gary Crittenden also recognized Bobby Johnson for completing fire investigation certification.

Newton Fire/EMS Chief Scott Metzler presented Deputy Chief Steve Roberson with the Excellence in Leadership Award.

″(Roberson) developed and administered multiple, simultaneous hiring processes in addition to managing the daily operations of a higher-liability organization. He also shepherded our members through a major transition as we moved all of our emergency reporting processes to a cloud-based platform,” Metzler said.

Roberson recently had his original research published by the U.S. Fire Administration and is currently enrolled in the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.

“When he graduates, (Roberson) will be among the top one-third of the top one percent of the United States’ fire service,” Metzler said.

Metzler also acknowledged those who were promoted within the past year, including Aaron Wald, Capt. Luke Edwards, Lt. Zac Lujano, Kevin Plenert, Bobby Johnson, Darrell Graves, Lucas McNally and Drew Couey.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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