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Answering a call to help

Carlson wanted a career to help people

November 26, 2012
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

The woman who collapsed in the Fort Dodge Perkins restaurant weeks ago was apparently dead.

Other people in the restaurant started CPR. Emergency personnel, including firefighter Nick Carlson, soon arrived. The combination of CPR and advanced treatments provided by firefighters and paramedics revived the woman.

''They successfully shocked her and I actually heard her speak in the ambulance on the way back to Trinity,'' Carlson said.

Witnessing that woman being brought back to life was one of the highlights of Carlson's young career with the Fort Dodge Fire Department.

He was also among the first firefighters to arrive at one of the bigger fires to strike the community recently - an April 26 blaze that heavily damaged six apartments at Westridge Townhomes on Avenue M West.

Carlson and two other firefighters had responded to a medical emergency on the city's west side and were returning to the firehouse at 1515 Central Ave. when the fire at the apartment complex was reported. They turned their fire truck around and headed back west. Carlson recalls seeing lots of smoke and some flames coming from the building when they arrived. He said the firefighters spent their first minutes on the scene setting up ladders and hoselines.

Carlson is a native of Fort Dodge and a graduate of St. Edmond High School who wanted a job in which he could help others.

''I wanted to wake up, go to work and know I was going to help someone,'' he said.

He added that he was attracted by the ''adrenaline rush'' of putting out fires and providing emergency care.

As a first step to becoming a firefighter, he became certified as an emergency medical technician (basic). He then earned an associate's degree in fire science from Iowa Central Community College. He passed the civil service exam and was hired by the City Council on March 26.

His first day on the job was April 3. He recalls it was a quiet day. That night, just after the firefighters went to bed, a medical emergency call was received. A man had been shot three times on the city's south side. Carlson, responding to his first call as a Fort Dodge firefighter, helped to treat the man.

''That's one you don't forget,'' he said.

He added that the man survived his injuries.

The blaze at the Westridge Townhomes was his first structure fire. Since then, he helped extinguish a garage fire on Home Avenue and a fire in an upstairs apartment at 222 K St.

At the Aug. 16 fire on K Street, he and firefighter Matt Brown pulled a hoseline up the stairs and into the burning apartment. Dragging a hose filled with water - what firefighters call a charged line - up a staircase is a lot of hard work to do before even starting to put out a fire, Carlson acknowledged.

''Adrenaline helps get you through,'' he said. ''You don't know you're tired until after the fact.''

Carlson and Brown quickly snuffed the K Street fire, preventing the flames from spreading throughout the building.

Going into burning buildings makes firefighting one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

''You trust your officers and the firefighters around you plus your training to get you home again,'' Carlson said.

In addition to his EMT designation and fire science degree, his training includes Firefighter I, Firefighter II and Hazardous Materials Operations certifications. He plans to train as a paramedic next year.

''Firefighting is constantly evolving,'' he said. ''Our training never stops until the day you retire.''



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