6 Mont. EMS providers quit VFD in protest

The Worden Volunteer Fire Department was left without enough staff to cover its ambulance shifts after the mass resignation


Rob Rogers
Billings Gazette, Mont.

WORDEN, Mont. — When emergency crews from the Lockwood Fire Department showed up to an auto accident early Tuesday afternoon all they found was a car.

The wreck was on South Road 13 and East G in Worden, the community that would normally dispatch its own ambulance. But the Worden Volunteer Fire Department lost six members of its ambulance crew on Tuesday when they quit together as a protest over the discipline of another crew member.

The Worden Volunteer Fire Department is working to maintain coverage and rebuild its staff after six EMS members quit in protest of another member's discipline on Tuesday.
The Worden Volunteer Fire Department is working to maintain coverage and rebuild its staff after six EMS members quit in protest of another member's discipline on Tuesday. (Photo/Worden Volunteer Fire Department)

"We have some personnel issues going on," said Worden Fire Chief Lance Taylor.

It meant the volunteer fire department had no ambulance crew to send to the wreck, so an ambulance from further away in Lockwood had to be dispatched. It was a single-vehicle accident and the driver apparently left before emergency crews arrived, according the Lockwood Fire Department.

To make sure his department can respond to the next call, Taylor is pulling from his other emergency medical volunteers to cover the ambulance day shift.

"I've got enough EMTs," he said. "I've just got to get them ponied up."

For Taylor, the incident highlights the challenges facing rural communities relying on volunteer emergency services. The Worden Volunteer Fire Department manages 35 volunteers and three stations, and covers roughly 547 square miles, the largest coverage area for a volunteer fire department in Yellowstone County.

Like the other Worden volunteers, Taylor works a regular day job and spends an additional 20 to 30 hours a week with the fire department.

It's taxing, he said. While they regularly respond to serious calls involving bad wrecks and big fires, increasingly the department gets called out for issues like a bleeding hangnail or a barked shin.

Taylor once dispatched a crew on a 2 a.m. medical call that turned out to be a stubbed toe.

"It's frustrating," he said.

To better address those issues, Taylor will be requesting the community fire board that oversees the department raises the fire protection fee charged to homeowners in the Worden fire district.

The increased fees will pay for two full-time EMTs that will work during the day in Worden, helping the agency better respond to calls for service.

In the meantime, the department will cover ambulance shifts during the day with some of its evening EMT volunteers.

"We've been down and out before," Taylor said. "We'll rebuild."

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(c)2021 the Billings Gazette (Billings, Mont.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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