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First responders from other agencies handling Burnsville’s emergency calls after deaths of 2 LEOs, medic

Neighboring cities have been sending officers and firefighters since the Feb. 18 shooting; correctional officers, medics and dispatchers will join them to allow Burnsville first responders to attend the Feb. 28 funeral

By Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer Press

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — When a driver fatally struck a pedestrian in Burnsville over the weekend, it was law enforcement from West St. Paul, Hastings and other agencies on patrol in Burnsville who responded.

And when there was a rash of recent fatal overdoses in Burnsville, it was Eagan police investigators who were called out.

Law enforcement and firefighters from the south metro — and farther — are taking turns patrolling in Burnsville and have been handling all the city’s emergency calls since Feb. 18, when a gunman killed two Burnsville police officers and a firefighter/paramedic. It’s their way of supporting the Burnsville departments as officers and firefighters take some time to grieve.

Burnsville Fire Chief B.J. Jungmann on Monday said the coverage from other agencies has allowed “our staff to focus on supporting the families of the fallen and one another.”

He thanked “our regional public safety partners that have stepped up in a time of need and ensured that the city of Burnsville would continue to receive the police, fire and EMS services that they deserve.”

Law enforcement and fire department chiefs worked together to make arrangements to cover all shifts.

“No one had to ask us to help,” said Apple Valley Fire Chief Matt Nelson. “It was like: ‘We’re here. Let us cover calls for you. You can take some time to heal.’”

Agencies covering for memorial service

On Wednesday, law enforcement from Rice County and firefighters from Minnetonka and Richfield will be stepping in to handle emergency calls in Burnsville to allow their Dakota County counterparts to attend the memorial service for Burnsville officers Matthew Ruge and Paul Elmstrand, both 27, and Burnsville firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth, 40.

Rice County Sheriff Jesse Thomas said his office’s correctional officers also approached him and offered to help in the Dakota County jail on Wednesday, so Dakota County jail correctional officers can go to the service.

To allow a large contingent of Dakota 911 workers to attend the memorial service, employees from other 911 centers “are volunteering to step in and help,” said Heidi Hieserich, Dakota 911 executive director.

A sign left at the memorial for the first responders and signed “Your dispatchers” said: “We will forever remember your voices on the other end of the radio. The silent echo leaves a void in our hearts.”

911 telecommunicators are the “first, first responders to really kick off the response” to emergency calls “and they’re there every step of the way,” Hieserich said.

Dakota 911 provided a critical incident debriefing to employees, along with having mental health practitioners who are available and doing individual outreach, Hieserich said.

Law enforcement, fire leaders quickly coordinated

On Feb. 18 , the day the first responders were killed, “we didn’t even have to discuss it — we knew we were taking over Burnsville calls for them,” said Dakota County Sheriff Joe Leko of the coordination between police chiefs throughout the county.

“Pretty much every agency in Dakota County is providing officers to be in Burnsville,” said West St. Paul Police Chief Brian Sturgeon . More recently, Bloomington and Anoka County has been sending law enforcement to partner with Dakota County officers in their squad cars in Burnsville, Sturgeon said.

Law enforcement also covered shifts for Mendota Heights police when officer Scott Patrick was killed in the line of duty in 2014.

Fire departments have been taking turns stationing their equipment and firefighters at Burnsville stations, so they can respond to Burnsville’s calls.

The Apple Valley fire department was called out to Burnsville when the incident Feb. 18 was underway to be available to respond to other emergency calls as needed, said Chief Nelson. They ended up staying when the magnitude of the situation became known.

“We help each other every day,” Nelson said of regular operations. “If there’s a fire, car accident, someone not breathing or cardiac arrest” and it’s near the border of another city, the closest firefighters will respond.

Now, “we’re all helping because, if the same thing happened in our city, we know that everybody else would be there for us as well,” Nelson said. “We’re one big family.”

Allina Health Emergency Medical Services, along with other agencies, have been helping provide EMS services for Burnsville since Feb. 18.

Burnsville police are scheduled to resume taking calls on Friday and firefighter/paramedics are to return to regular duties on Saturday, though that could change, according to Tuesday morning information from the city.

It’s meaningful that so many people want to help Burnsville, Lakeville Fire Chief Mike Meyer said, but he added: “We also need to think longer term of watching out for our first responders and our community, too. This is going to take time for all of us to heal.

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