Who's coming to the rescue of people seriously injured in traffic accidents in Ward County?
That's a question the county board is seeking answers to.
In this week's Eye on Energy, Jim Olson reports on the struggle for emergency responders to keep up with the rising accident rate brought on by the increase in oil-related traffic.
With more traffic comes an increased chance of accidents. And in Ward County, emergency responders are concerned about getting help to people injured on the highway.
(Karter Lesmann, Burlington Fire Chief) "They're all head-on collisions at 70 miles an hour. These people don't have 30 or 40 minutes to wait."
That's Karter Lesmann, chief of the Burlington Fire Department talking with the Ward County Board last week. He and Minot Rural Fire Chief Rex Weltikol told commissioners that the workload for their two departments is growing quickly as they respond to many accidents involving head-on crashes often involving large trucks. And that kind of accident requires manpower.
(Karter Lesmann, Burlington Fire Chief) "You get a semi wreck and we need 10-12 guys there to do that and we have to take three or four departments just to have enough people to do it."
The problem is that in Burlington, just as in places like Carpio, Berthold, and Douglas, it's getting hard to find volunteers to respond.
(Karter Lesmann, Burlington Fire Chief) "They can't get the volunteers - everybody's working in the oil field."
But the main reason for the men's visit to the county commission was to seek clarity about what areas they are being asked to cover in the county because smaller departments such as Carpio no longer have the equipment needed to deal with serious accidents and don't respond to them.
(Karter Lesmann, Burlington Fire Chief) "Who do want to cover Carpio's district for rescue services?"
(Jerome Gruenberg, Ward County Commissioner) "There's a levy in place for the Carpio district to take care of this that they're not using so if someone else is going to cover for them that needs to be re-assigned to another fire department."
(Karter Lesmann, Burlington Fire Chief) "I don't think Carpio wants to dissolve by no means. It's that they don't have the people. THey don't have the volunteers that want to do it and we're running into that problem everywhere."
Lesmann says there is money available for buying much of the equipment needed for accident response, but...
(Karter Lesmann, Burlington Fire Chief) "We've been really lucky, both of us, at getting equipment - we're getting a new heavy rescue truck just so we can carry this stuff further but our next problem is going to be are we going to have certified people there when we get there."
Lesmann and Weltikol agreed to study the issue of county-wide response to traffic accidents and report back to the county board next month. Jim Olson, KX News.