The first firefighter/paramedic on the scene, Bob Schreihans will never forget what he saw, heard — even smelled — when he responded to the Sept. 6, 2011, shooting at the Carson City IHOP, where five people were killed and seven injured.
“Some of those things will stick with me forever,” he said. “It changes the way you look at things and the way you operate on a long-term basis to the short-term. I still can’t stand the smell of maple syrup and pancakes.”
It also changed the way he does his job.
A Carson City Fire captain at the time, Schreihans’ crew from Fire Station 3 responded to the call Eduardo Sencion had opened fire at the popular breakfast restaurant. He killed four people — including three National Guard members — before turning the gun on himself.
“It was a pretty tragic scene,” Schreihans said. “We’d responded to multiple injuries before, with car accidents and stuff, but this was a single person who’d carried it out.”
With the shooter dead, he said, paramedics were able to triage the victims in the parking lot and enter the building right away.
“The victims we saved that day were in critical condition,” he said. “They would have all bled out, but they didn’t because we were able to respond rapidly.”
Since then, the department has undergone additional trainings to be able to work more closely with the sheriff’s department when responding to an active shooter.
Schreihans, who’s now the Carson City Fire chief, said the training is crucial because the firefighters are also paramedics who operate the city’s three ambulances and three fire engines.
Rather than wait until the scene has been completely cleared of the shooters — paramedics can begin treating patients in less dangerous areas, known as warm zones.
Schreihans described a warm zone as an area of the building away from the shooter, such as a downstairs floor if the shooter is upstairs.
Although it increases the risk for firefighters, who now carry bulletproof vests on their rigs in case of such a situation, it has the potential to save lives.
“We’ll go in to take care of the victims before it’s completely cleared,” he said. “It’s a lot better for the victims. If we have to wait for the sheriff’s department to clear the building, people die.”
He said his department is among a few fire departments in the nation to have that training.
Several Carson City firefighters will join in the Memorial Run on Sunday morning to remember the victims of the shooting. A fire engine will also escort the runners from IHOP, 3883 S. Carson St., to the Nevada National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, 2460 Fairview Dr.
“It’s important to recognize the people who were killed,” Schreihans said. “We also want to support the National Guard and the sheriff’s department.”