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Fire, ambulance services merged

January 08, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WILLIAMSPORT - A firefighter loaded equipment on an ambulance as his comrades - firefighters and emergency medical technicians - bantered with each other Sunday at their Williamsport station.

More than three months after members voted to join forces, it's official: Williamsport's fire and ambulance services are one company.

"It's like everything is coming together as a family, instead of as two separate groups," said Tom Anderson, a past president of Williamsport's ambulance company.

Firefighters and ambulance company members voted Sept. 25 to consolidate this year into one structure with a shared chain of command.

Glenn Fuscsick, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, at the time called the move "history-making." On Sunday, he was just as enthusiastic.

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"I think the morale's improved, and definitely the quantity of volunteers on calls has increased," Fuscsick said.

Jay Grimes, president of the association now known as Williamsport Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said the company has more manpower now that firefighters and emergency medical technicians share calls.

"There's times that we're short on both sides, but the ambulance side supports the fire side, and the fire side supports the ambulance side," Grimes said.

Anderson said the move will help the community because it creates efficiency between the services.

Martin Farmer, a firefighter technician, said the diversity of services that Williamsport's company provides is an added bonus for the volunteers.

"It's kind of nice because you get to pick," Farmer said.

The department can respond to medical and fire calls, as well as perform water rescues, members said.

Grimes said he believes the company someday could require its members to get training to serve on ambulances and firetrucks. He said the company also likely will need more space.

On Sunday, both firetrucks and ambulances sat parked in the station's bay, as a scanner picked up emergency calls outside the company's jurisdiction. The ambulance company moved to the station last year.

Longtime ambulance company member Bob Harsh, who was adamant at the September meeting about his opposition to the consolidation, said by telephone Sunday that he still is not sold on the idea.

"I got to try to make it work, but it was the absolute - absolute - wrong time to make this happen," said Harsh, who claims 44 years of service. He said he ran two calls Thursday.

With the consolidation, Fuscsick said, members will get more opportunities to practice their skills, and he echoed a prediction he made in September that Williamsport's company would lead the way for others.

"It went just as we laid out, and I would say, yes, this would be the model for future consolidations in the future," Fuscsick said.

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