SUMMIT COUNTY — Imagine you're in a car accident and you need immediate help. The nearest firefighters would be dispatched, but they couldn't help you medically. You would be left to wait until the only 24-hour staffed ambulance in the county could get to you. Until Wednesday, that was the case for patients in Summit County.
The three fire stations in Summit County are now licensed to perform emergency medical services. Firefighters said the licensing has been years in the making.
"It's aggravating I guess when you hear something down the street, but your agency isn't certified to respond, so you can't respond," said Tyler Rowser, Summit County Fire District representative.
Rowser is now one of the 25 certified firefighters. He remembers being called to a traffic accident and arriving before the Highway Patrol. He couldn't offer first aid to the patients.
"That was scary, that wait time," said Christi Snyder, a Coalville resident.
Snyder has been on the other side of the call. Her grandson had a seizure and stopped breathing, and she had dialed 911.
"It took them a total of 30 minutes to get there to help this child. I was really scared. I was panicked because I thought, 'Is he going to get help in time to save him?’ ” Snyder said.
Summit County has three volunteer-run fire stations covering 500 square miles with more than 4,000 residents. Each station has an ambulance, but only one at a time is staffed. That means a call could come in from Henefer and the ambulance in Wanship would possibly be the emergency responders for the incident. It could take up to 30 minutes for a patient to get help.
Officials said the EMS license will cut down the wait time. Firefighters can give medical assistance until the county ambulance arrives.
"They'll be able to respond and start initial patient care, and once the ambulance gets there they'll transfer that care to the ambulance crew," said Battalion Chief Eric Hale, Park City Fire District.
"In some cases of getting people, seconds count," Rowser said.