Milwaukee Fire Chief Initiates Policy After Death at Bus Stop

Feb. 16, 2024
After a patient was missed by a crew, firefighters are required to leave their vehicle to look for someone in need.

Feeling "light-headed and dizzy," Jolene Waldref, 49, called 9-1-1 saying she was at a bus stop. The temperature was below zero.

Traffic cameras showed a Curtis ambulance driving by the Milwaukee bus stop twice. The crew didn't see her. They never stopped. 

Twenty minutes later, a passing motorist found her and called 9-1-1. She was dead when Milwaukee firefighters arrived.

"We are reeling in the wake of this. We are feeling a tremendous amount of pressure right now to make this right," Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said in testimony before the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee Thursday, WISN reported. 

"As of Feb. 7 of this year, the fire department and both ambulance providers have already initiated, while not codified and formalized, we have certainly communicated, that if necessary will leave the vehicle to ensure there is not a patient. When weather, other environmental conditions or obstructions create impaired or reduced visibility at or around the location or landmark to which responders are dispatched, responders shall exit their vehicles and search for those requiring assistance," the chief told the group.

Two private ambulance services, Curtis and Bell respond to calls in the city.

"We sat down and we interviewed our staff and we looked into this in great depth,” Curtis Ambulance CEO James Baker said. "They obviously feel badly about it."

Baker said in addition to getting out to check the area for a person in distress, the ambulances will have their lights and siren activated as well.

"We will work closely with the fire department and with Bell. We don't have to be forced to do anything. We have a willingness to comply and do what's right. And we will do that," he promised.