Fire chief: Ambulances turned into buses on Oct. 1

Protocol went out the window.

LAS VEGAS - Memories of the chaos and tragedy at the Route 91 Harvest Festival will remain forever for everyone affected by the 1 October shooting.

That includes firefighters who worked side-by-side with paramedics saving lives. 

Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell sat down with reporter Patrick Walker for an exclusive interview to talk about his firefighters' efforts that tragic night.

Inside the fire station headquarters, there are hundreds of cards and letters from around the world  on the walls. 

"Various schools around town, post cards here from all over the country, this is out of North Las Vegas, we received from Canada, from England, from all over the country," Cassell said.

One month after the tragic shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, Clark County firefighters are feeling a lot of love.

"It means a lot, you know, it's an opportunity to know that you've made an impact in your community," Cassell said.

That night, 108 Clark Ccounty firefighters answered the call, lending whatever help they could to the hundreds hurt and hundreds more fellow first responders.

I'ts a night Chief Greg Cassell will never forget.

"Well, I first got a phone call about 10:15, at home, the operations chief called me, I could hear his sirens in the background, he was telling me 'We've got a shooting on the Strip, and it's a big one.'" 

Cassell got in his truck and headed to the Strip.

"It was very surreal, that's a term I keep using, it was very surreal to see what was going on down there," he said. "It's a large area, so as people were egressing out as our crews were going in, they were coming across just dozens and dozens and dozens of critically injured victims that they had to stop and handle right then."

Early on, ambulances were swamped and Cassell says, for good reason, protocol went out the window.

"Rigs were completely stripped of their medical gear, I mean they just ran out because we don't have the ability to treat 50 people on one particular engine. The ambulance is usually one, you can squeeze in two on the gurney too, and on the bench you can put another one, but on that particular evening, the ambulances were all being used as transport vehicles, multiple patients, just any open seat, put anybody in there. That night, it really did serve as a bus." 

More than 500 people were hurt and it was about getting people to the hospital as quick as possible. Ambulances took about one-third of those patients to the hospital. The rest went in private vehicles.

Cassell says he's proud of the way everyone stepped up to help those around them. He adds, what everybody saw will stick with them for a lifetime. That includes the firefighters.

"You rarely, if ever, see anything of this nature, so we have some people that are struggling with that, which is perfectly fine, It's, I've been telling everybody, It's okay to not be okay, really, honestly it is." 
There is  a tight bond in the firefighting family. Some have had a harder time than others dealing with the emotional toll that comes out of this tragedy.

Professional help is an option for some and others have their own ways of coping. There are plenty of things about October 1 that these firefighters want to forget. But the strength and solidarity that has come out of that night is something these men and women want to remember forever.

"We have a VegasStrong sticker on our battalion chief's vehicle here, and the particular battalion chief that is on duty today was there that night, this was his vehicle, and he made these little ribbons up for all of our command vehicles, and then a smaller version of that ribbon for the helmets of everybody that responded that night."

 


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