Airway & Respiratory, Communications & Dispatch, News, Patient Care, Trauma

Firefighter Fired After Food Run Delays Response

AUSTIN, Texas — Before jumping onto an Austin firetruck and rushing to a woman in respiratory distress earlier this year, officials say, firefighter Michael Pooler decided to make a quick stop.

He went to the Burger House next door.

The food run delayed the Austin Fire Department’s response to the call by two minutes and led acting Fire Chief Jim Evans to fire Pooler.

Evans said in a disciplinary memo released Tuesday that Pooler demonstrated “a shocking neglect of duty” in the Jan. 4 incident.

“Immediate response to 911 calls is the very essence of what it means to be an Austin firefighter. ” Because of his selfish and highly unprofessional actions, he has no right to remain an Austin firefighter,” the memo said.

Fire Department spokeswoman Michelle DeCrane said paramedics from Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services reached the patient before firefighters and canceled the firefighter response.

The patient’s condition is not known.

DeCrane said the 911 call originated from an Austin Regional Clinic near Far West Boulevard and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). In an audio recording of the call, a clinic employee told a dispatcher that the patient was a 77-year-old woman who was having difficulty talking and breathing at the same time.

Pooler, a 12-year veteran of the Fire Department, declined through a union representative to comment on the firing, which happened after a hearing Friday. He does not have an attorney, said Palmer Buck, secretary for the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters.

Buck said Pooler plans to appeal the firing.

According to the three-page memo, Pooler was at Station 21 on Spicewood Springs Road, near Mesa Drive in Northwest Austin, when its crew was dispatched to the call.

Pooler, who was the on-duty supervisor, walked away from the fire station to place an order at the adjacent restaurant, the memo said.

DeCrane said other firefighters did not depart without Pooler, probably because department policy requires four firefighters on most engines and because Pooler was the crew leader.

Evans said in the memo that for a person in respiratory distress, two minutes can mean the difference between life and death, or could lead to permanent brain injury.

He also said that Pooler’s actions “erode and violate the public’s trust in the Austin Fire Department.”

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