Tucson Fire Department Station 6 houses MMRS. From department website.
Mark Ekstrum, a 28-year veteran of the Tucson Fire Department, retired two days after refusing to respond to the shooting scene where U.S. Rep. Garbrielle Giffords and 12 others were wounded and six people were killed. The retirement came as disciplinary procedures had been started, according to the Arizona Daily Star. The paper has city memos it received in a public-records request.
The paper reports that Ekstrum was part of a specially trained team that handles mass casualty incidents and was dispatched to the shopping center about 90-minutes after the January 8 shootings. The memos indicate the refusal caused “confusion and delay” as another firefighter had to be picked up from a different station to respond to the call. In statements to the Daily Star the department downplayed the delay issue. The Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) from Station 6 responded non-emergency to the scene after the last patient was already delivered to the hospital.
In a Jan. 9 report on Ekstrum’s actions, fire Capt. Ben Williams wrote that when Ekstrum first told him he would not go out on the call, “he mentioned something about ‘political bantering’ and he did not want to be part of it.” He said he was acting “for the good of the crew.”
Williams said he told Ekstrum he could not refuse a call for that reason, and then talked to the firefighter privately in his office. He said Ekstrum “started to say something about how he had a much different political viewpoint than the rest of the crew and he was concerned.” Despite being told that was not acceptable, Williams said Ekstrum informed him he was going home “sick,” so they answered the call without him.
In a statement provided to the Fire Department late Wednesday, after he was contacted by the Star about the incident, Ekstrum said he was distraught over the shootings and had no problem with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from a bullet wound to the brain, and even voted for her in the last election.
After the crew returned from the call, Ekstrum was waiting at the station with his wife and asked if he could come in to apologize to the crew, the memo said. The crew accepted his apology, and then Williams talked in his office with Ekstrum and his wife.
“He stated that there were underlying issues regarding the call that brought up a lot of anger and made him ineffective as a firefighter,” the memo said. “I told him that as his captain I had lost confidence in his future ability to perform his duties. He stated that he felt this call was unique and did not think this would happen again.”