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Westport 9/12

A few weeks ago, I ended this column by noting our ongoing shortage of volunteer firefighters and EMTs. The problem was brought home to me vividly last Friday, when we tried to respond to the tragic accident on the Northway. As you probably know by now, the driver of a minivan lost control of his vehicle between exits 31 and 32 northbound. Two passengers were ejected as the vehicle rolled several times before coming to rest against some trees. Those ejected were a 6-year-old girl, who survived, and a 53-year-old woman, who, sadly, did not.

I was working at home when the call came through, and I was able to drop everything and rush off to the firehouse. When I got there a few minutes later, both our ambulances were in the driveway, along with an engine and the rescue truck, ready to get underway.

The fire trucks were put into service quickly, but the ambulances were held up for several valuable minutes, because we didn't have enough EMTs on hand to staff them. We had to wait, as the minutes dragged by and our frustration grew. Finally we were able to roll.

Right now we only have a handful of qualified volunteer EMTs on the emergency squad. Some of them work in neighboring towns, and at any given time the others might be out of range for a quick response. I'm still in firefighter training, and I plan to begin EMT training as soon as possible, so that I can pitch in. We badly need more people. If you feel like you might be able to serve, please think about joining, especially if you have any medical training.

One thing I can promise you-you'll be working with the best. That was my second lesson of the day. We may be short-staffed, but the people we do have are absolutely superb at what they do. Word is the injured passengers, including the little girl who was ejected from the vehicle, will make full recoveries. I'm pretty sure I know who deserves much of the credit. I watched that person at work-calm, efficient, careful, and surprisingly tender-and it's something I won't soon forget.

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