Volunteer decrease prompts fire department to cut ambulance service

Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department's shrinking volunteer base is forcing the fire department to end ambulance service at the start of 2018

By Keith Gushard
The Meadville Tribune

JAMESTOWN, Pa. — With a shrinking base of volunteers, Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department won't be providing ambulance service as of Jan. 1, 2018.

Emergency medical care will continue.

"It's a manpower issue," said Mike Cadman, who serves as the department's emergency medical technician captain. "We'll still have our QRS or quick response services—they'll respond to stabilize a patient, but we just won't be able to transport someone."

Both Conneaut Lake Area Ambulance Service at Conneaut Lake and Life Force Ambulance Service Inc. at Greenville already serve the Jamestown area and those ambulance services will continue to do so, Cadman said.

Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department's coverage area is about 56 square miles with West Shenango and South Shenango townships in Crawford County and the borough of Jamestown and Greene Township in Mercer County.

Jamestown is down to four qualified medical personnel, which isn't enough staff for a volunteer ambulance service, Cadman said. Jamestown doesn't have enough calls to warrant the staging of an ambulance from either CLAAS or Life Force in the Jamestown area, he said.

"We run about 300 to 350 EMS (emergency medical services) calls in a year, but they're not all calls that require transportation," Cadman said.

Cadman estimates about 60 percent of the department's annual medical calls happen from April to October due to Pymatuning State Park, which attracts more than 3 million visitors a year.

While disappointing, the closure of Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department's ambulance service isn't a concern to Dan Bickel, superintendent of Pymatuning State Park.

"The key thing is they'll still have QRS and they always provide good service to the park and those visiting our campgrounds," Bickel said. "Conneaut Lake and Life Force are running the ambulances there now when needed. I don't expect differences at all."

Kevin Nicholson, director of Crawford County Department of Public Safety, said his only concern about the planned closure is getting the county's computer aided dispatching system for 9-1-1 services updated.

Township governments in West Shenango and South Shenango townships were contacted earlier this month about what ambulances they want to respond within their respective municipalities, he said.

"There's no deadline, but we want to do it as soon as possible before the end of the year because we have to update the CAD system with what ambulance responses where," Nicholson said.

Each municipality in Pennsylvania is required to designate a primary emergency medical services and primary fire service for protection of its residents.

Jamestown isn't unique to the region in having its volunteer ambulance service close down and switch over to QRS only.

Cambridge Area Volunteer Ambulance Service previously announced plans to close down as of Jan. 1, 2018, and switch over to QRS. The same thing happened in early 2016 with Cochranton Volunteer Ambulance Service.

Like other volunteer fire departments, Jamestown is trying to recruit new people, Cadman said.

The department holds its training sessions at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at its station at 208 Depot St.

"People always are welcome to come by and watch to see if they're interested," he said.

Copyright 2017 The Meadville Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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