OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Earlier this year, an Oklahoma City firefighter, Maj. Corey Britt, was disciplined for driving an injured toddler to the hospital.
Britt is a 26-year veteran of the department who was Firefighter of the Year in 2004.
In January, Britt found himself in hot water because of his decision to take 3-year-old Quinn Amme to the hospital in the back of his fire truck.
Many inside the department are furious, questioning why Britt deserves disciplinary action.
Britt broke department policy when he drove Quinn Amme, a burn victim, to the hospital to be treated for second-degree burns.
“We kept asking. ‘How much longer? How much longer until they’re here?'” said Quinn’s mom, Kristin Amme. Quinn’s father, Corey Amme, calls Britt a hero.
Oklahoma City Fire Department Chief Richard Kelley defended the decision to discipline Britt.
“We are an emergency response service. We do not transport patients. That’s not our job,” Kelley said.
The discipline came after an internal investigation instigated by a complaint from Oklahoma City ambulance service EMSA.
Kelley decided Britt would lose his leadership position at his fire station. Though Britt was allowed to keep his rank and his pay, he is now a junior officer at another station.
“First and foremost, we have empathy for the family,” Kelley told KFOR. “That’s a traumatic situation. We hate for anyone to be in that situation. I know that’s very tough. But again, we have to look at we protect the residents of the city. And if we don’t follow the ordinances of the city, then we can get ourselves in trouble.”
Kelley and Deputy Chief Mike Walker stand firm on internal discipline despite outrage online.
Citizens and fellow firefighters around the country have spoken out in vocal social media posts.
A Change.org petition has thousands of signatures.
A nationwide helmet sticker company is printing merchandise in support of Britt. When the campaign went public, the department began enforcing a long-standing ban on helmet stickers.
According to an internal memo from Jan. 20, referencing KFOR reporting, the Oklahoma City transport policy comes from a state statute and city ordinance.
“We are licensed by the State Department of Health to be an emergency response agency, which means we are allowed to provide emergency medical treatment to patients. But it says explicitly that we are not allowed to transport,” Walker said.
First responders have been frustrated in recent months by extremely slow EMSA ambulance response times.
Two days before Britt took Quinn Amme to the hospital, Nichols Hills firefighters waited one hour and 23 minutes for EMSA to arrive.
According to a police report, the Nichols Hills officer eventually took the overdose patient to the hospital.
EMSA never came.
Earlier this year, two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers received an award for transporting an officer injured in the line of duty.
Last month, another trooper was commended for rushing a little girl to the hospital after a deadly wreck on Turner Turnpike.
Eleven years ago, retired firefighter Richard Fulton was injured on the job during a training exercise. The firefighter-turned-patient was taken to the hospital in the back of the truck.
“I was transported to the hospital on Rescue Ladder 34, the very same station,” said Fulton.
No one was disciplined.
Additionally, Fulton says his district chief at the time was Mike Walker.
“He would have had to have approved my transport,” Fulton said.
A fire department spokesperson said the department is a certified medical response agency with the latitude to transport its own personnel.
“It is permissible for the Oklahoma City Fire Department to transport firefighters to clinics or hospitals for further evaluation. Firefighters are authorized to be on fire apparatus and are allowed to do so by the City of Oklahoma City. Although the department is not a transport agency under the auspices of the Office of the Medical Director (OMD), it is a certified medical response agency with the latitude to transport its own personnel for further medical evaluation. The department will, however, summon an ambulance if the condition of the employee warrants such,” the spokesperson said.
“(Britt) chose to help a child, a citizen,” said Fulton. “We’re paid to do that. We take an oath to do that. He chose to do that.”
Also eleven years ago, another firefighter drove an injured patient to the hospital during an ice storm and was disciplined with a counseling session.
Here is the official department response confirming that incident:
“This was an accident involving an overturned vehicle during an ice storm. The patient was in critical condition with a head injury. Firefighters placed the patient on a backboard and placed the patient inside the fire engine to keep her warm while waiting on an ambulance. After a lengthy wait, the patient was transported to a local hospital for further care. A crucial component, verified by the Office of the Medical Director, was that the fire department contacted OMD prior to transporting this patient and obtained permission to do so. OMD authorized this request as related to the Weather-Induced Temporary Alterations to Clinical Standards General Orders…. The officer responsible for that transport received discipline in the form of a counseling session about the decision made.”
Regarding other allegations of firefighters transporting civilian patients in a fire department vehicle, OKCFD said, “The department is unaware of any other instance in which a civilian was transported on a fire department apparatus.”
“It’s amazing that the administration could be polar opposite of the general public, who pay their salaries,” Fulton said. “Have they forgotten who they work for? That would be my question to them, ‘Have you forgotten who it is you work for?'”
Britt said the citizens of Oklahoma City pay his salary, saying, “I come to work for them.”