Crown Point FD faces manpower shortage

CROWN POINT - Emergency services are at risk in Crown Point.

A manpower shortage is causing the A.E. Phelps Fire and Rescue Company to struggle in providing fire and ambulance service to the community.

"We have a real problem," Fire Chief Scott Ingleston acknowledged. "Especially on the ambulance side, they're really hurting."

The fire company has a roster of 40 members, but Ingleston said a core group of about 15 keep the department running.

"We had a structure fire on Ferry Road the other day and we had fewer than 20 people respond," he said. "It's a real concern."

The problem is worse for the ambulance. The company has five emergency medical technicians, but only two are available to take the bulk of calls.

Take the case of Dave Hobbs, a Crown Point EMT. The Crown Point ambulance responded to 160 calls for help in 2008 with Hobbs along for 85 percent of the calls. He was named 2009 Basic Life Support Provider of the Year by the state Department of Health for his efforts, but how long can he keep up that pace at age 72?

"I don't know where we'd be without Dave," Ingleston said. "I know he really loves doing it, but down the line we have to get more EMTs."

The manpower shortage is so acute the local ambulance has been unable to respond to some calls recently, Ingleston said. Those calls were answered by Lamoille Ambulance Service, a Vermont-based company that operates in Ticonderoga.

Lamoille, though, is a private for-profit business that bills its customers. The A.E. Phelps ambulance is taxpayer supported and free to local residents.

So what's the solution?

Ingleston said the department has discussed recruiting drives and even hiring paid staff to supplement the work of volunteers.

"I really don't know what we'll do," he said. "There's just a real shortage of volunteers. People aren't willing to step up and do it anymore."

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