News4 In Your Corner


Inside 911: A day in the life of a first responder in Southwest Florida

Posted at 10:52 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-23 15:31:50-05

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA. -- Less than six minutes; that's how quickly first responders have to get to an emergency.

Whether it's a fire, car crash, or medical emergency, how do firefighters and EMS make sure to get to you in time?

"Whether you'd be hanging off the side of the building or drowning in the Gulf of Mexico, we're coming to get you," says Lt. Nick Stolts of North Collier Fire

"We are a special breed of people," Daryn Favara, a paramedic at Charlotte County EMS, said.

"Sometimes I hear the tones when I'm at home," Jodi Vansickle, a paramedic with NCF said.

Four in Your Corner rode along with a crew at North Collier Fire and Rescue Station 45.

"It's something different every single day," Lt. Stolts said.

Our cameras were rolling as they put out a car fire. Malachi Gabbard was driving the car at the time.

"Your first instinct was to what?" Four in Your Corner's Lisa Greenberg asked Gabbard.

"Get out, get everyone out," Gabbard said.

But for the crew at Station 45, it was to run toward the danger, gear up, and go in.

"It really doesn't come into your mind when that's happening," Lt. Stolts said. "That's part of what we do."

The crew also responded to an elevator entrapment.

"We get called for victim removal," Lt. Stolts said. "We shut down the elevator system to prevent any further entrapments."

The first responders know they're often catching people in their worst moments.

"Any time someone calls 911, it's not because they wanted to call 911," Vansickle said.

Lt. Stolts said the toughest calls are the ones that deal with children in emergency situations.

Favara, who Fox 4 followed at Station 1 in Charlotte County, recalled her worst call. It involved a little girl who stopped breathing. 

"At one point, this little girl told me she was going to die," Favara said. "I shook throughout that whole call."

Thankfully, that little girl was taken to the hospital and her life was saved.

We spent a dayshift with Station 1 in Charlotte County. They say the typical calls are geriatric calls, trauma calls, car accidents, frequent gunshot wounds, psychiatric calls, and heart attacks.

One call Fox 4 followed Charlotte County EMS to involved an elderly man who was having chest pains and trouble breathing.

"Give him general supportive care, possibly some medications, transport him to the hospital," Favara said.

Inevitably, there are some lives they can't save.

"They're going to pass away, regardless sometimes of what you do," Favara said.

"Some of the stuff you see, there's no doubt it affects you," says Lt. Stolts.

But crews at both Station 45 and Station 1 spend a third of their lives together and say the only way to get through it is to lean on each other.

"We depend on each other. We really do. On shift and off shift," Favara said.

"We just watch out for each other and we end up becoming a knit," Vansickle said.