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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesdays with Gindy. Meals on Wheels Truck.

There was a very strange time in the history of parts of this country when litigation was rampant and everyone was worried about jurisdiction and boundaries.

There was a time when fire departments and rescue squads were trying to find ways to fund their operations when donations did not quite keep up with the needs and cities, counties, and states were not taking care of business financially.

There was a time when fire departments would charge a yearly fee to residents and, if a fire were to break out in the home of someone who had not paid the fee, the fire department would sit and watch it burn.

There were countless stories where help was available just across the county
line, but the fire trucks could not cross the line to help.  We personally saw a situation in Greenwood County, South Carolina, where a car was on fire in the parking lot of a shopping center. It was almost in sight of a Greenwood City Fire Department substation, but the firemen were powerless to respond because the parking lot was not in the city limits.

It is that type of situation that occurred one day when the Iva Rescue Squad received a plea for help.

A tractor with a mower on the back was driving up the road and a truck pulled out to pass the tractor.  The truck belonged to a caterer who had a contract with Meals on Wheels in Anderson County, South Carolina. 

The driver of the truck passed the tractor, but somehow managed to strike his fuel tank on the mower. This cut the tank open and ignited a fire which engulfed the truck.

All of this happened nearly forty years ago, so I probably have some of the details mixed up, out of order, or just plain wrong.  The rest of the story is how I recall it after three strokes and lots of senior moments.

This was back before the days of 911.  The accident happened in Abbeville County, South Carolina, but the area had an Iva address.

The Iva Rescue Squad had two ambulances. One was owned by the Iva Rescue Squad and was paid for by the people living in and around the town of Iva.  I think that one was number 6-1.   The other ambulance was provided by Anderson County and was paid for by the taxes of people living in Anderson County. It was 6-2, I think.

The call was routed by the operator to Iva Dispatch, which was located in the town hall in Iva.  The equipment and staff were paid for by taxes collected from people living within the Town of Iva.

The call was sent out and the Iva Rescue Squad was dispatched.  We just so happened to climb into the ambulance that was owned by the Iva Rescue Squad.  I think it was 6-1, which was pronounced “Six one."  We had no idea which side of the county line the accident was on and it really did not matter.  What mattered was that someone needed our help.

We headed towards the scene and, as we approached the county line, Anderson County Rescue Control came on the radio to tell us to cancel our response because the accident was in Abbeville County,

Shortly after Rescue Control told us to cancel, our chief came on the radio and told us to continue the rescue.  He said it was an Iva ambulance and that cancelling the response would delay help.

We continued with the rescue.

When we arrived, not only the truck, but the tractor and the entire area erupted in fire.  This fire surrounded us, but did not consume the area where we were.  Our driver called Iva Dispatch and asked for immediate help from fire.

The only fire department that Iva Dispatch had authority to dispatch was the Iva Volunteer Fire Department.  The fire department had the same equipment ownership set up as the rescue squad.  Some trucks were owned by the county and others were paid for by donations from the community and belonged to the Iva Fire Department.

Fire Control and Rescue Control were in the same building and both were paid for by the county.  In fact, at times, one dispatcher handled both Fire and Rescue control using different radios at desks that were parallel to each other with the dispatcher sitting in a swivel chair between the two desks.

Fire Control got on the radio and ordered Iva Fire to cancel because it was out of the county. The Iva Fire Chief ignored Fire Control and sent the Iva-owned fire trucks across county lines.

It was a good thing, too, because as Iva Fire was rolling up, the fire was almost to the second fuel tank on the truck.  Iva Fire put out the fire and perhaps saved our lives.

The driver of the truck was standing outside the truck when we arrived.  He was too much in shock to notice that he had second and third degree burns over every part of his body except the soles of his feet.

The senior EMT got the man onto the stretcher and he and I applied sterile burn sheets and lots of sterile triton water.  Our driver, who was also an EMT, left the door open between the driver’s compartment and the patient compartment.  He announced we were 10-66, which meant extreme emergency.

Our driver was among the best in the business.  He maneuvered that ambulance like a maestro playing a concert violin.  The driving was pure perfection.  Our EMT, I was still a junior at this time, was perfection personified. 

As we approached the City of Anderson, our driver radioed to Rescue Control and told him we were going to need help with the traffic lights from APD (Anderson Police Department).  Our driver added, “It’s gonna be life or death”. Unfortunately, our patient overheard this.  

Our patient sat up and said, “Life or death? What he mean, life or death?”  Our highly professional EMT calmed him down by saying, “That is just what we say so that we can get a police escort.”

As we approached the City of Anderson, we were met by none other than the police chief, himself driving the lead car.   He escorted us past all the red lights.  Each intersection was covered by city police, sheriff’s deputies, and Highway Patrol cars.  This effort was purely a work of art. 

We took our patient to the hospital, where he was stabilized and MedEvacced to a burn center. 

I never heard what happened to the man after that.  The official report was that he had second and third degree burns over 99% of his body.

As I understand it, charges were filed against the Iva Rescue Squad and the Iva Fire Department.  Judge G. Ross Anderson provided his services as our attorney pro-bono.  No trial, no reports to file. 

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