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Sharpsburg unit enters age of paid rescuers

September 03, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - The last all-volunteer ambulance squad in Washington County will have paid personnel starting today, according to Jay Grimes, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

The board of directors of the troubled Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services plans to hire a paramedic and an emergency medical technician who would work during daytime hours, said Robert Cumberland, a spokesman for the fire and rescue association.

Three years ago, Williamsport Ambulance Service was the first squad outside the City of Hagerstown to have paid personnel, said Alan Butsch, a Williamsport paid paramedic. Since then, the other ambulance companies, except for Sharpsburg, had followed suit, mostly to cover daytime hours when it's hard to find volunteers, Cumberland said.

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The company has been on probation following turmoil that resulted in Chief Larry Myers announcing last month that he was taking a leave of absence because of stress.

Cumberland said the ambulance company planned to hire two people to work between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. five days a week to ensure adequate service to the community.

Volunteers from other ambulance companies have been helping staff the station, Cumberland said.

Only three county fire departments have paid staff, not including the City of Hagerstown, Grimes said.

Halfway Volunteer Fire Co. and the Williamsport Ambulance Service will provide paid personnel at Sharpsburg EMS beginning today until permanent employees can be hired, Grimes said.

The money to pay for the workers will come from tip jar proceeds from the Washington County Gaming Commission, Cumberland said.

Hiring paid workers is one of several steps that the department plans to take to address problems. The board of directors will work with President Lester Bussard and Deputy Chief Otho Kretzer to get members more involved in evenings and on weekends. They also will work on getting more training for volunteers.

Grimes said he thought that Sharpsburg was on the right track and said more volunteers appeared to be coming back to the service.

"Hopefully the misunderstandings have been corrected," he said.

Sharpsburg EMS also is looking for new members. Anyone interested may stop by the station, call the fire station number at 301-432-5348, or call the county fire and rescue association at 301-714-0812, Cumberland said.

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