Isolated Island Raises Rescue Van Fund
Other small and isolated fire districts may be interested in the accomplishments of the firemen on Orcas Island, Wash., between the mainland and British Columbia. No mutual aid is available except for forest fires, and there is no drugstore or hospital on the island, which is hilly with winding roads.
In October 1970, the fire commissioners hired me as chief to modernize the fire department. Regular drills were instituted and training films from the State Board for Vocational Training were shown. Courses in basic and advanced first aid were conducted by the American Red Cross. With this new training, the number of volunteer firemen grew and morale improved.
The firemen spent about $900 for turnout gear with money from their annual dance proceeds. They voted to spend up to $1000 for a used station wagon to be used as a rescue car to carry equipment and transport the injured. In the past, injured persons were taken to the airport by any vehicle available.
When a retired banker heard of the idea of buying a used vehicle, he formed a committee to spearhead a drive for funds for a well-equipped, new van. Printed letters were sent to everyone who owned land on the island. A stamped, self-addressed envelope was enclosed. The local light company addressed the envelopes and the banker paid for the postage.
Money raised quickly
Within five weeks, $6000 was contributed in amounts ranging from $1 to $100. The van was ordered before all the money was in, and it was in operation within three weeks.
The weekend after it was placed in operation, four emergency calls were answered. One call was for a youth who was seriously cut when he fell into a glass showcase. His lacerations required 21 stitches. The interesting thing about this is that his father was one of the people who could not see the need for a rescue car!
The van itself cost $4200, and the balance of the money was spent for equipment. The van carries a portable light plant with two floodlights, first aid equipment, two basket-type stretchers, spine boards (made from plans in Fire Engineering), a resuscitator and two breathing apparatus.
Since January 1971, two retired physicians have been practicing parttime on the island, and they are notified of all rescue car calls. We take a doctor along on serious calls if he is in his office. All first aid work is done according to the suggestions of these doctors.
Finally, we carry dead persons to the airport for transportation to the mainland, where there are morticians. Although we make no charge for this, usually it brings a $10 or $15 donation for the rescue car fund.