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A group of Valley lifesavers may be disbanded

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fresno County rescue divers would be pulled out of the water under a proposal being considered by county leaders.

For nearly 30 years, American Ambulance has provided EMS services for Fresno County. The company's response also included rescue services through its STAR Team but now the county wants to shift those resources to another aspect of patient care.

The STAR Team consists of about 30 personnel who are trained in water, high angle, and wilderness rescues. Fresno County Director of Emergency Medical Services Daniel Lynch told Action News those services were initially required of the company but things have changed over the last few years, creating a duplication of services. "There's very little demand for the rescue services by American Ambulance now and there's a great deal of resources and costs that are committed to proving an on-duty, 24/7 rescue service they provide," said Daniel Lynch.

Several other agencies now serve the county with search and rescue teams, including the Fresno Fire Departments Urban Search and Rescue Unit and several units in the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. "It's the reserves that work for the boating unit, the SAR team, the SAR mountaineers, there's a lot of people here that have gone into swift water training," said Fresno County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Chris Curtice.

The proposal from the County of Fresno doesn't exactly save money but rather redirects resources. EMS Director Lynch would like to see more paramedic training in critical transport services, which would allow paramedics to transfer patients from one hospital to another in instances that may otherwise require a nurse. "What we're after is increasing that level so that paramedics trained at that level will be able to take patients without having to decrease care that's being provided to them," said Lynch.

Whatever the county decides, American Ambulance says its mission won't change. "American Ambulance is going to continue to do what we've always done, which is providing paramedic staff. So we will continue to respond to rescue calls, we will continue to provide services to those victims once they're brought to us and we'll transport them to the hospital. That's what we do best," said Edgar Escobedo with American Ambulance.

American Ambulance and the County of Fresno both said no jobs will be affected by the elimination of the STAR team. The proposal will be presented to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in late August.

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