CRS crew moving to firehouse in city

February 12, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Ambulances dispatched to calls in downtown Hagerstown will get there faster on weekdays, thanks to one unit's move to Antietam Fire Co. on Summit Avenue, a Community Rescue Service officer predicted.

Assistant Chief Dave Hays said early last week that the ambulance company was training a new two-person crew. He said he expected they would start work at the fire station today.

"To the downtown areas and western portions of Hagerstown, there will be a significant reduction in response times," Hays said.

On Sunday, CRS Capt. Robert Buck said he was planning to move an ambulance to the fire station in time for the new crew's 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. shift today.

Hays said the full-time crew will work eight-hour shifts Monday through Friday, when the ambulance company typically is busiest.

The move could shave two to three minutes from the amount of time it takes for ambulances to reach people in certain areas of Hagerstown, Hays said.


Fire Capt. James Sprecher Jr. said Antietam's volunteer firefighters agreed the move is in the best interests of the community.

"And, we open the doors and welcome them, that's certainly not a problem. It's going to be a win-win situation for everybody," Sprecher said.

Volunteers who were present for a meeting about the situation Wednesday voted unanimously to open their firehouse to the paramedics, Sprecher said.

"We're ready for them tomorrow, so be it," said Sprecher, a volunteer.

The fire company plans to train with the paramedics Tuesday, and Sprecher said volunteer firefighers who are qualified will be able to respond to medical calls with the ambulance when the CRS crew is not available.

The move to the fire station is the second time the company has tried to establish a downtown base there, Hays said. Part-time employees staffed the ambulance the last time, and CRS eventually gave up because of overtime costs, he said.

"This time, we're confident that the numbers are there," Hays said.

With about 800 calls in January, Hays said, the ambulance company, which also operates out of the fire station in Maugansville, is busier than ever. While it averaged about 650 calls a month last year, the company anticipates monthly call volumes will increase to 750 in the near future, Hays said.

Eventually, Hays said, the unit at the fire station could be in service 16 to 24 hours a day. A change to 16-hour days could come as early as this summer, depending on the company's finances, he said.

"We expect that unit that's down at Antietam to run a significant amount of calls," Hays said.

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