Fire District No. 1 uses hefty grant for first-rate ambulance

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Commissioner Donn Smith, USDA rural development specialist Debbie Harper, Chief Tom O'Donohue, Lt. Rodney Harrington, and Commissioner Fred Hill stand before an ambulance purchased with grant money.

OCEAN PARK - Standing in front of their shiny new ambulance, Pacific County Fire District No. 1 Chief Tom O'Donohue accepted a check for $61,800 from a grant given by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA).

USDA's Debbie Harper said, "Tom [O'Donohue] did an exceptional job in writing a compelling application for grant money to be used for this ambulance."

In August, Fire District No. 1 also received a FEMA grant of almost $140,000 for similar improvements. According to O'Donohue, the community has experienced significant increases in emergency medical calls due to increased population growth and added responsibilities. The district covers 88 square miles for advanced life support needs and also handles out-of-town transports to other hospitals.

The ambulance cost $115,535 and fully equipped and supplied will cost about $150,000.

Lt. Rodney Harrington received praise for the work he did in making sure the ambulance met the specific needs of the Fire District.

It is predicted that the district will respond to approximately 2,750 emergency fire and medical incidents in 2005, or one about every three hours.

"Our firefighter-paramedics respond to Code-3 emergencies in just over five minutes on average. The combination of paid and volunteer firefighters and EMTs is the reason for this successful system," O'Donohue said. "We provide services on a smaller budget than most other departments with similar call volumes."

By using volunteers and paid workers that are trained to utilize the state-of-the-art equipment and by watching the budget closely, O'Donohue said he is proud of his crew's ability to meet and exceed state and federal standards.

"Our goal is to bring our community the highest quality firefighter and paramedic services in as rapid a response time as possible," O'Donohue concluded. "We want the community to be proud of our services that they have come to rely on."

Receiving over $200,000 in grant money the past two months is a big step in meeting that goal.

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