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City of Muscatine Communication Blog

Hello and welcome to our blog. As the Communication Manager for the City of Muscatine, Iowa, I know the importance of communicating with residents and providing them with an understanding of the different functions of the City, why these functions are important to our residents, and what the City is doing for the future of our community.

Many times the story of the various activities, accomplishments, and happenings within the City are not told and we want to make sure that the people behind these activities, accomplishments, and happenings are duly recognized. We also want to explain our vision of the future for the City of Muscatine, something that we take great pride in.

Please check back in periodically to see updates on what's going on here in Muscatine! Please feel free to leave comments on individual postings--the comments will not be displayed here, but they will be emailed to me so that I can collect your thoughts and make adjustments based on the feedback and suggestions. Moderated comments are an option as we progress. Thanks for reading and I hope you find this to be an effective tool!

Sep 14

09-14-20 Muscatine Firefighters, public pause to remember

Posted on September 14, 2020 at 4:24 PM by Kevin Jenison

091420 Kruse Memorial 001 (JPG)
MUSCATINE, Iowa – A year and three days after 343 firefighters perished in a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Muscatine lost one of its own while battling a house fire I 2002 2002. Firefighter Michael Kruse was remembered with the laying of a wreath at the Firefighters Memorial Monday (Sept. 14) during a special service commemorating the 18th anniversary of his death.

Fire Captain June Anne Gaeta placed the wreath in honor of Kruse in front of the Memorial during the brief service at 7 a.m. Monday. Gaeta and Kruse were part of the team at Station 2 in the 1990s that was led by newly appointed fire Lieutenant Jerry Ewers.

Fire Chaplain Dave McIntosh, pastor of the Hillcrest Baptist Church, provided the prayer and benediction for the service.

Kruse was 53-years-old and a 27-year veteran of the Muscatine Fire Department when he lost his life while fighting a house fire on the night of September 14, 2002. He was the first and only Muscatine firefighter to die in the line of duty, the only Iowa fire fighter to lose their life while on duty in 2002 and the 131st in the state of Iowa since records began in 1890. A total of 147 fire fighters have fallen in the line of duty since 1890.

Ewers, now the Muscatine Fie Chief, fondly remembers meeting Kruse for the first time as part of his team at Station 2, and sadly remembers the night Kruse lost his life.

“I remember that night very well,” Ewers said.

Muscatine Fire Department’s Green Shift responded to a structure fire at 10:30 p.m. on that Saturday night (Sept. 14, 2002) finding a wooden three-story multi-family home at the intersection of Orange and East 6th streets engulfed in flames. Kruse was one of two firefighters who were working on the structure's roof when Kruse fell through and into the structure below.

When Ewers arrived at the scene he issued an all-call to bring in other shifts and relieve Green Shift in containing the fire.

“The tragedy suffered by Green Shift was felt by all those who came to the scene,” Ewers said. “But it was best to relieve that shift and allow them to grieve. We still had a job to do but it was a very emotional night.”

Kruse’s dedication to job safety and protecting Muscatine residents is a lesson that can be taught to the firefighters of today and those of the future. His sacrifice and loss of life while on active duty, the emotional toll it took on his family, co-workers, and Muscatine residents, and the hope that Muscatine will never experience a tragedy such as this ever again are all part of the message presented during each memorial service.

“Mike was one of the most safety conscious firefighter’s on the department,” Ewers said during a speech in 2012 commemorating the 10th anniversary of Kruse’s death. “Mike always looked out for other firefighters to make sure they were doing the job safely and that they had their full protective equipment on at all times.”

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Hartman also knew Kruse and carried a picture of Kruse with him when he completed the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Stair Climb. The significance that two tragedies come so close together for Muscatine Firefighters is not lost on Hartman.

“It is sad but also offers you an opportunity to reflect on the job, and the sacrifices they made,” Hartman said. “I look at it as a chance to kind of rededicate yourself. Mike passed in 2002 and we don’t have a lot of people on staff who remember him.”

Ewers first met Kruse in the 1990’s as a newly appointed Fire Lieutenant assigned to Station 2. Kruse and firefighter June Anne Gaeta were his crew.

Ewers admits that as a very young, very green fire lieutenant he was book smart but lacked the fire ground command and exposure to structure fires.

“Mike was a true teacher and mentor to me,” Ewers said. “His experience in fighting real fires, his expertise with the equipment, and his knowledge of the city helped this young lieutenant grow.”

Kruse joined the department in 1975 and was one of the first members to obtain his fire science degree at MCC.

“He was a true firefighter dedicated to protecting property and saving lives,” Ewers said. “He was very detail oriented, liked everything clean and in its place, and took his job very seriously.”

One thing about Hartman’s relationship with Kruse is that Hartman knows that Kruse would expect him to maintain his training and safety, two things that were very important to Kruse.

“That’s one of things I reflect on at this time of year,” Hartman said. “What can I do to train a little bit more, to be a little bit safer, or to help our staff train harder and be safer.”

Hartman said you can either focus on the negatives at this time of year or you can look for ways to become better.

“Everybody is going to be sad at the loss of life,” Hartman said. “You can be sad and focus on the negative part. Or you can be sad and ask what would Mike want. Those of us, especially those who worked with Mike, would ask that question.”

Everybody dealt with Kruse’s death in a different way. Many on staff just did not talk about the event or what Kruse meant to the department. A gap started to develop as staff left or retired and were replaced his young new hires. Hartman noted that after a while, one of the newer firefighters asked what you can tell me about the event and about Mike. Hartman and others realized that they had not done a good job of that, and sat down to put together a presentation to give to each shift. The two-hour presentation on the event, what went wrong, what could be done better, and what Mike was all about is now given at each new hire academy.

“You cannot undo what happened but you can use what happened and get as much positive out of it as you can,” Hartman said. “I think sharing this information with the department and the new hires helps to not only keep Mike’s memory alive but it is the right thing to do and brings them in to culture.”

Ewers spoke of the difference between commemoration and celebration during his 2012 speech. Commemorating an event, he said, is done to honor the memory of that event. Celebration is a time or rejoicing, a time to feel good about something that has happened.

“Commemorations often remind us of what we have lost,” Ewers said. “Commemorations are important, not because of the words spoken, but because of honor, courage, and sacrifice that were displayed during the time of the event itself.

“We all know in our hearts that firefighting is a dangerous profession,” Ewers said. “Mike knew this when he was hired in 1975. Not every firefighter who responds to the sound of an alarm is guaranteed a safe return to quarters. Some will be mentally scarred for life with what we see and encounter at emergency scenes, some will be seriously injured, and some will pay the ultimate price.

“So it was with Mike Kruse on September 14, 2002 while battling a house fire at 6th and Orange just a few blocks from here,” Ewers said. “We have gathered here to commemorate that tragic event that took one of our own and left behind a painful gap in our ranks. We will continue to do this as long as the Muscatine Fire Department is in existence.”

Muscatine’s Firefighters Memorial is located at the intersection of Cedar and 5th Streets.

NATIONAL FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL - Kruse is among the fallen firefighters to be honored with inclusion on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. In his memorial, his children wrote:

“Mike was a ‘True American Hero.’ He never wanted to be recognized for all the wonderful things he did. Mike always stood up for what he believed in. He was always honest‚ even though the other person did not want to hear what he had to say. Mike always followed the rules‚ unless someone gave him a direct order to do otherwise.

Mike always put others before himself. He always talked about his family which he was so proud of. Mike stood by them through thick and thin. He gave his children unconditional love. He taught them to respect other people for who they are. Mike explained to them to love life because life is short. He became their best friend. He loved them for who they are. He was so excited about his little grandson‚ who bore his name. He took time out of his busy life to spend lots of loving moments with him.

Mike always went the extra mile at home and at work. He kept track of every run he had ever been on. He stopped by some of the houses while he was out for his morning jog and checked on patients to make sure they were doing all right. He never passed up the opportunity to play in the yearly basketball game with the Special Olympics. Mike always enjoyed carrying the boot and receiving donations for MDA.

Mike was a veteran at the fire department for twenty-seven years. He was still able to keep up with some of the younger guys. He was able to give the younger firemen the knowledge he had learned over the years. He was very respected for that.

Mike was taken from us at a moment in time when his family and friends were so proud of who he was. He will always remain alive in our hearts as a ‘True American Hero.’”

IOWA FIRE FIGHTER LINE OF DUTY MEMORIAL

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation


Jul 23

Transit ambulance joins Muscatine Fire Department fleet

Posted on July 23, 2020 at 3:46 PM by Kevin Jenison

(See Original Post at https://muscatineiowa.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/transport-ambulance-is-added-to-muscatine-fire-department-fleet/)


MUSCATINE, Iowa
– Patient comfort, better gas mileage, and decreased maintenance costs are just three of the benefits from a Type II Transport Ambulance that was recently added to the Muscatine Fire Department (MFD) fleet.

“It is a much smoother ride,” Andrew McSorley, Muscatine Firefighter/Paramedic who worked with Battalion Chief/Emergency Medical Service Chief Ted Hillard in the purchase and outfitting of the new rig. “We have some long distances that we drive to take patients from one hospital to another. This unit is just a smoother ride for the patient and easier to drive down the road for the paramedics.”

The 2019 Type II Ford Transit, medium height roof, 3.7 liter gasoline powered van was purchased for $85,591.00 from Foster Coach with the purchase authorized by the Muscatine City Council in November 2019.

“Some of the feedback we get from citizens is that the modular ambulances are not a very comfortable ride,” Jerry Ewers, Muscatine Fire Chief, said. “The way this transit is built will provide a smoother ride for the patient.”

Hillard noted that there will be a cost savings in gas for the new unit and less overall maintenance costs for all of the ambulances in the fleet.

Earlier this year, the MFD had 12 trips to the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City or to Davenport in one day. Those trips amounted to over 1,000 miles accumulated on one of the bigger units in just a single day. That is extra miles that would be bettered served in response to 911 calls than in transferring non-critical patients.

Hillard said that the department gets roughly 200,000 to 250,000 miles on a unit before actually have to do major work on them.

“Once we get that high of mileage, it starts to nickel and dime us because of all the little things that start to go wrong,” Hillard said. “Plus we are constantly having to maintain them.”

Reliability is important along with maintenance costs when working with units that have high mileage, and MFD mechanics work hard to maintain the fleet and keep the ambulances in working order so that they are dependable and reliable for use.

“We do have a fleet replacement schedule that we follow when mileage increases and repair costs skyrocket,” Ewers said. “This addition to our fleet may help to extend the useable life of our ambulances and that will help keep costs down.”

The transit ambulance, Squad 356, has been in service for several weeks and the MFD has already had some feedback.

“We responded to a 911 call with our regular ambulance, drove the patient to the hospital, and then drove the patient to a different hospital in the transit ambulance,” Hillard said. “The patient said the ride was completely different in the transit and more relaxing.”

Relaxing while being transferred from one hospital to another may be a stretch in regards to patient comfort especially if the patient has a back or neck injury or something similar.

Anyone with non-critical injuries will tell you that being bumped around as you are in the bigger ambulances is not that relaxing.

“This is all about patient care and patient comfort,” Hillard said.

McSorley added that comfort is especially key when transporting psychological patients.

“Just being uncomfortable can set them off,” McSorley said. “So this type of transport is beneficial to them and to the paramedics with the patient.”

This type of BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulance is not meant to be used as an ALS (Advanced Life Support) unit but could be if the situation warrants. McSorely said that Squad 356 has not been used a lot yet with the MFD being rather selective on what calls the unit goes on. Predominately, the unit will be used for patients who are not critical, do not require medical treatment but still need some monitoring, and cannot be transferred by private vehicle.

While patient comfort, better gas mileage, and cost savings are key factors in the units use, there are some drawbacks. One of the bigger downfalls is that the attending paramedic cannot access the patient from both sides of the cot.

“While it is definitely more comfortable, when you get in the back you really see the difference between these rigs,” McSorely said. “However, the lack of room is not that big of a deal for a BLS transport.”

The unit is designed for BLS transport and not intended to be used for any 911 calls, but if something would go wrong, the unit does have ALS capabilities including an ALS monitor, certain medications, the ability to do IV’s and intubations, and much more.

“So even though this is for BLS, we can still turn it into an ALS transfer if we needed to,” McSorely said.

Squad 356 joins five ALS ambulances that have primary responsibility for responding to 911 calls. Four of those ambulances are housed at Station 1 in the Public Safety Building, and one is housed in Station 2 on the south side of Muscatine.

“This is a great investment in what we do,”McSorley said. “As many transfers as we are starting to get, this is the best option for us and for the patient. And, for the many long distance transfers that we have, we would rather go that distance with this rig than one of the other rougher riding rigs.”

Transit ambulances have been out for several years but not many departments utilize them because they are normally used for non-emergency transfers. Transit ambulances are not used for 911 calls since there is less compartment space, and there is less room for patient care especially when you have critical patients that may need the more enhanced ALS services. Non-emergency transport services have been using them and using them well according to Ewers.

“We are trying to fit it into our organization and evaluate to see if it is something that we can continue with or if it is something that we utilize now but does not have a practical application in our future operations,” Ewers said. “We will not know that fit until we have the opportunity to try some research, accumulate data and feedback, and see how it works within our organization.”

If it does work, the department would not rule out adding another transfer unit to its fleet, especially if a third station is built.

“This is our initial investment to see how it works for our department,” Hillard said. “Where we go really depends on how call volume goes, and the potential for building a third station on the north side.”

Hillard said the department is maxed out right now with all bays filled up at both Station 1 and Station 2. Squad 356 is housed at Station 1 where the transfers are dispatched from. The ambulance at Station 2 does not do transfers unless the transfer requires more critical care.

“Our odds of picking up a patient at the hospital in a timely manner is better from here (Station 1) plus this station is where our manpower is and it is easier to back fill staff when needed,” Hillard said.

A third station is being planned at the former Iowa Department of Transportation site on Lake Park Boulevard but construction for that site is still several years away from being implemented. A third station would allow ALS ambulances and fire trucks to be housed at that location and free up a bay or two at the main station for the potential of another transfer unit if the data warrants.

Unlike the bigger modular ALS ambulances, the transit ambulances cannot be refurbished and will have to be eventually replaced. The price difference between a Type 2 BLS transport ambulance and the Type 1 ALS modular ambulance may make replacement feasible.

“We are always trying to find alternative ways of providing services while still being cost effective,” Ewers said.


Jun 15

Practice fireworks safety this holiday season

Posted on June 15, 2020 at 4:55 PM by Kevin Jenison

Residents urged to follow safety guidelines for an injury free holiday season; Fourth of July consumer firework usage allowed only on July 3 and July 4


061520 Fireworks Tent 001 (JPG)MUSCATINE, Iowa
– Fireworks and the Fourth of July have a long standing relationship but this year’s celebration of our nation’s independence will be different and without many of the festivities that were enjoyed by Muscatine visitors and residents a year ago.

The Fourth of July holiday season will, undoubtedly, still be accompanied by the discharging of consumer fireworks from the homes of area residents including the use of sparklers, firecrackers, and other large displays.

Residents are reminded, however, that the legal discharge of consumer fireworks is limited to just two days in July. Muscatine City Code states that consumer fireworks can be legally discharged July 3 and July 4 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. only.

The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GMCCI) decided to cancel the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks demonstration out of concern that residents would not be able to practice the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Iowa Department of Public Health in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. The decision was made after consulting with the City of Muscatine and with Trinity Muscatine Public Health officials.

“As disappointing as it is to cancel this long-standing community tradition, we want to take every precaution to keep members of our community safe and healthy,” Erik Reader, GMCCI President & CEO, said. “We are still looking to have a community celebration of sorts, but later in the summer. At this time we are exploring rescheduling the fireworks, adding live music, and trying to find ways to support small businesses that have been impacted by the recent events.”

Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson echoed Readers’ comment and joined with other City officials in stating the importance of public safety.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our citizens and of the visitors to our community,” Broderson said. “The current health crisis has brought significant challenges to our lives. While it is disappointing that this celebration cannot be held, we will be able to enjoy these types of celebrations in the near future by following the guidelines provided for social distancing and personal hygiene.”

Consumer fireworks will still be, and currently are (although not legally), discharged by residents in the weeks and days leading up to the Fourth of July. Citizens are urged to be responsible regarding the use of fireworks and to remain within the guidelines established in the Muscatine City Code.

Public safety is also the foremost concern for local and state officials in the governance of the sale and use of consumer fireworks.

“Fireworks can have far reaching consequences that are usually not considered when they are ignited,” Kevin Jenison, City of Muscatine Communications Manager, said.

Local government and public safety officials share deep concern for the individuals who discharge the fireworks, those individuals who are in the vicinity when fireworks are discharged, those individuals who may be affected by the noise created by the explosions, for the homes, businesses, or other structures that may be ignited by fireworks, and for household pets.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission states that the Fourth of July, and the month surrounding it, is the most dangerous time for fireworks related injuries. The majority of fireworks-related injuries involve the hands and fingers (41 percent) with the head are second (19 percent).

Trinity Muscatine Emergency Department received six trauma cases from the surrounding area due to severe firework related injuries in July 2019. Muscatine County Public Health also reported additional firework related impacts including a reported dismemberment and one death in the area. Many more firework related injuries went unreported.

While the skies may be dark along the Mississippi River riverfront without the annual fireworks show, expectations are that reaction to the COVID-19 health crisis will create more celebrations at the homes of Muscatine residents.

“The Police Department had about a dozen firework calls over the weekend,” Mike Hartman, Assistant Fire Chief, said.

Applications for tents have been received for various locations including the Muscatine Mall, Blain’s, Fareway, Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart, and Menards, and inside sales at planned at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Mainstreet, Wal-Mart, and Menards. The Muscatine Fire Department have approved two tents to sell and beginning their safety inspections of the other locations.

The City of Muscatine encourages residents to be good neighbors when discharging fireworks, to be considerate to any neighbors who might have a sensitivity to fireworks noise, to be mindful of pets who may become frightened by the firework explosions, and to be mindful of the property lines of others who may not want fireworks on their real property.

Per state law, a person shall not use, explode, or discharge consumer fireworks on real property other than that person’s real property or on the real property of a person who has consented to the use of consumer fireworks on that property. Sidewalks, the right-of-way between sidewalks and the street, and the City streets are all public property and thus are prohibited. Parks, trails, public parking lots and so on are also off limits.

Using fireworks outside the designated dates and times listed below is considered to be a violation and can result in fines of no less than $250 per violation. Anyone discharging fireworks or allowing the discharge of fireworks on their property assumes responsibility for that discharge and the consequences, if warranted.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers these recommendations:

  • Do not allow young children to play with fireworks. Sparklers, a firework often considered by many to be the ideal “safe” device for the young, burn at very high temperatures and should not be handled by young children. Children may not understand the danger involved with fireworks and may not act appropriately while using the devices.
  • Persons under the age of 18 shall not discharge any fireworks without adult supervision.
  • Do not allow any running or horseplay in or around the fireworks firing area or with fireworks.
  • Set off fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and other flammable materials.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never light fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Observe local laws.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

Report any fires in buildings, vehicles, or greenspaces by calling 911 immediately!

Enjoy a safe holiday season.

More information can be found on the City of Muscatine Firework Safety page.