- Jordan D. Smith
Donation to Portland Firefighters Honors Former Chief Blundy
When tragedy strikes, firefighters with the Portland Area Fire Authority are often the first on the scene to care for the injured whether it be a house fire or car accident. But who cares for our local heroes if the worst should befall them as they care for us. It is exactly that eventuality that inspired the family of former Portland Fire Chief Larry Blundy to make a donation in his memory after he passed away on September 20th of this past year.
Larry Blundy didn’t start his career in public service as fire chief but rather as Portland’s first full-time paramedic in 1979. This was only a few years after the City of Portland took over the operation of the ambulance service. Prior to 1971, the area’s ambulance service was operated by Neller Funeral Home. “The patient received advanced first aid, and was transported in a converted station wagon to the hospital,” says Portland Assistant Fire Chief Dave Donbrock, “there was no room in the back for anyone to care for the patient, during the trip, to the hospital.”
According to Portland Ambulance Director Zach Waltersdorf, in 1986, the City of Portland became the first to operate an advanced life support (ALS) ambulance service in the county. Donbrock, who like many of our area volunteer firefighters is also an EMT says that, “having ALS units in a community our size, is a rare thing. Having what I consider to be above average paramedics to staff our ALS units, is a true blessing to the City of Portland and our surrounding communities.”
From those early days of the ambulance service, Blundy rose through the ranks to eventually become both Portland Fire Chief and Ambulance Director. He was instrumental in the construction of the current emergency services building on Grand River Ave and also saw many improvements to both ambulance and fire services as the community grew.
To honor Chief Blundy’s memory, his family approached the Portland Fire Fighter’s Association with the idea to make a donation to help care for the men and women who serve our community in a time of need. The firefighters association has been active in the Portland community since 1876 when they owned and operated the Wabanah Engine Company #1, which eventually became the Portland Fire Department and eventually the Portland Area Fire Authority. Their goal is to support the fire fighters and their families and to purchase equipment to help them serve the community more effectively. Toward that end, the firefighters association coordinated with the Blundy family to purchase an automatic external defibrillator (AED) for use on the fire engines.
A 2019 report from the National Fire Prevention Association concluded that 46% of firefighter on-duty fatalities were due to sudden cardiac death. “We typically have ambulance coverage at a structure fire until the IDLH (Immediate Danger to Life and Health) has been mitigated. But, structure fires are not the only place where a cardiac arrest of a firefighter occurs. Being a volunteer firefighter is stressful and physically demanding, regardless of the nature of the run. Getting out of bed, at 3 am, at zero-degree temperature is a stressor. We see things, and we do things, that most people never see or do,” says Assitant Fire Chief Donbrock.
According to Ambulance Director Waltersdorf, while the ambulance department often responds to emergencies alongside the fire department, their first priority is caring for and transporting people to the hospital. Also, sometimes fire scenes are far from immediate emergency medical care as in the case of a wildfire. In these situations where every minute counts in saving a firefighter’s life, an AED is a crucial tool. “The LIFE PAK CR2 AED purchased by the Portland Firefighters Association and the Blundy family will... allow Larry to watch over his department for years to come,” says Waltersdorf.