For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- When Assistant Chief Chris Bushman started with the St. Lucie County Fire District in 1979, Fire Department Headquarters was at North 7th street and Avenue D in Fort Pierce. Fire service operations were provided from seven fire stations spread throughout St Lucie County, and run volume was around 500 to 600 calls a month depending on the season.
The fire district responds to about 3,400 calls a month, some 40,000 a year, out of 17 fire stations.
Assistant Chief Bushman started his career in the fire service in 1977 as a Forest Ranger with the Florida Division of Forestry.
He moved to the Fire District in 1979 and is retiring after serving 34 years as a St Lucie County firefighter. When he joined SLCFD, most of the stations were staffed with three firefighters who were cross trained as certified firefighters, and emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
"Whatever the call was, we took the rescue vehicle (ambulance), or the fire truck and managed most calls with those three firefighters," said Mr. Bushman. "Today, we staff all fire stations with a minimum of four cross-trained personnel and most calls get at least five firefighters responding so that there is enough manpower to handle the emergency."
"The standard of care has changed rather drastically since I started," said Mr. Bushman. "Both firefighting and emergency medical services has seen a multitude of regulations and standards for both equipment and the types of medications allowed to administer prior to delivering a patient to the hospital. We also have a state approved trauma center in the county which is a tremendous benefit to the citizens."
One of Bushman's biggest challenges was being part of establishing a Hazardous Materials response team for the fire district in 1991. This was partly in response to an anhydrous ammonia explosion in Fort Pierce which killed three workers, as well as the trend in the number of hazardous materials incidents that necessitated this type of specialization.
Chief Bushman was also the initial on scene incident commander for the large brush fires that consumed 44 houses in Port St Lucie back in 1999.
"That is just one of the memories that invade your mind from time to time," said Mr. Bushman. "Mother Nature took control that day and showed all of us who was in charge."
Chief Bushman has also worked every hurricane and tropical storm since Hurricane David back in 1979.
"It's just what we do, anytime, anyplace, anywhere," he said.
Chief Bushman will maintain his teaching credentials at Indian River State College and plans on additional volunteering with local organizations and spending time with his family traveling.