Fire crews: City should keep EMS

Iola firefighters wrote a letter to the Iola City Council, asking them to continue offering ambulance services in the city limits and separating from the Allen County EMS system. Councilman Carl Slaugh said he opposes such a move. The Council is likely to discuss the matter at Monday's meeting.



August 20, 2021 - 2:06 PM


If Iola firefighters have their say, the city will retain its ambulance crews, even after a contract to provide countywide emergency medical services expires Dec. 31.

The entire Iola Fire Department has penned a letter to the Iola City Council, asking the city to continue offering ambulance services inside Iola’s city limits, separate from the Allen County EMS system, in 2022 and beyond.

“The Iola Fire Department has been running an EMS service in some capacity since 1959,” the letter reads. “Our members are 100% committed to providing quality care and compassion to the citizens of Iola and Allen County.”

The letter comes after Allen County commissioners voted Tuesday to negotiate a new EMS contract with a private company, thus allowing its contract with the city to expire on Dec. 31.

What that means for the Fire Department will be discussed Monday evening at the next Council meeting.

If Iola retains its own ambulance service, it would create a system in place for four years prior to when the city and county reached an agreement to consolidate their ambulance services under the IFD umbrella in 2013.

City Councilman Carl Slaugh, who was Iola city administrator during the negotiations that led to the city-county pact that year, opposes running a separate service.

“I had hoped the county would decide to go with the city,” Slaugh told the Register. “But since they haven’t, I’d prefer the city give up the whole operation to the county.

“It’s more costly to try to run two services,” Slaugh explained. “At least it would be for the city. This would put us back in the same situation where we were 10 years ago.” 

Part of the city’s decision may hinge on what sort of agreement is reached between the county and American Medical Response (AMR), a national ambulance service company that operates ambulances in cities and counties in 39 states across the country, including Linn County in eastern Kansas.

Mayor Jon Wells noted the contract between the county and AMR — details have yet to be worked out — may necessitate some sort of EMS crew remain at IFD, such as if a backup unit is needed during emergencies, or if multiple ambulances are dispatched simultaneously for long-distance patient transfers.

County commissioners voted, 2-1, to pursue a contract with AMR, with Jerry Daniels and David Lee in favor, and Bruce Symes opposed. 

Symes said he preferred extending Iola’s contract.

SO WHAT are the options for the Fire Department?

Slaugh envisions a department staffed to fight fires and handle other emergencies around town, similar to the Chanute Fire Department.