Concord firefighters honored for baby delivery 

  • Concord Hospital EMS Coordinator Craig Clough presented Firefighters David Currier, Phil Tirrell, Zach Gagnon and Firefighter Paramedic Justin Kantar with stork pins and code save pins for delivering a baby in the field and reviving a man who was in cardiac arrest. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 6/27/2021 5:00:04 PM

On June 14, Concord Fire Department received a call at 2:50 a.m. A pregnant woman was going into labor at home.

Usually, firefighters arrive to childbirth emergencies ready to transport a patient to the hospital. But this call for labor was different, so firefighter paramedic Justin Kantar decided to change into pants rather than the department’s new uniform shorts.

That turned out to be a good decision. By 3 a.m., Kantar and the rest of the Heights Fire Station crew on duty that night had helped safely deliver a baby girl.

Concord Hospital EMS Coordinator Craig Clough presented firefighters David Currier, Phil Tirrell, Zach Gagnon, and firefighter paramedic Justin Kantar with pins shaped like storks in a ceremony Monday honoring them for their participation in the delivery and another recent medical emergency.

When the engine arrived at the apartment building just minutes after the call on June 14, the crew pulled out a chair to bring the expectant mother down the stairs. The baby, named Bernadette, had other plans. Her older sibling remained asleep on a bed in the same room during the birth.

So far this year, the Concord Fire Department has responded to eight calls related to pregnancy, childbirth or miscarriage. For two of those incidents, including this month’s birth and one on May 31, firefighters assisted in the actual delivery of a child.

The department received 18 calls for childbirth-related emergencies in 2020 and 15 calls in 2019.

Certified midwife and Concord Birth Center owner Kate Hartwell said her state licensed birthing center received significantly more calls from interested parents last spring, as potential patients sought to avoid the risk of COVID in a hospital setting and giving birth without a significant other present.

“We definitely saw an increase,” Hartwell said. “We couldn’t take everybody who wanted to transfer to our care.”

Concord Fire has received more overall calls than usual this year, said Concord Fire Chief Sean Brown, and if the current trend continues, the department will have responded to 500 more incidents than in 2020. “Call volume is certainly on pace to be the busiest year on record,” said Brown.

“We suspect it’s tied to the pandemic, as more people were at home and they were doing more cooking, doing more outdoor recreating,” he said. Dry conditions have also worsened fire risk.

Concord firefighters train for childbirth calls at the Concord Hospital’s Simulation and Education Center, where they can practice delivery on high-tech mannequins that can talk, dilate their pupils and scream. Last year, the department increased its training for obstetric-related emergencies, Brown said.

“When you get to do something, that is of high-risk, that you’re specifically trained for, it feels good to be able to exercise that knowledge or skill-set,” said Kantar. “It was a good type of emergency.”

After helping with the delivery, the crew took turns holding the newborn to keep her warm before transporting her and her mother to the hospital.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people we see, we see on their worst day,” said Tirrell, a 25-year veteran of the fire department. “This was a good day.”

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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