South Lewis County EMS’s new base is now at the corner of state Route 505 and North Military Road in Winlock
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
WINLOCK – The paramedics who respond to 911 calls in South Lewis County have a new home, a new name and and an increased presence at night.
South Lewis County EMS has moved its quarters to a spot about a half mile west of Interstate 5, to the corner of state Route 505 and North Military Road, near Winlock High School.
The group of eight medics will soon be known as Lewis County Medic 1. And they’ve altered their work schedule so two people will be on duty 24 hours a day at the new site.
Fire Chief Grant Wiltbank
The most visible change is their quarters. They began moving the Fourth of July weekend.
Lewis County Fire Districts 2 and 15 spent $300,000 out of their reserves to purchase the four acres which hold a newer three-bedroom house and a double garage tall enough to park the ambulance indoors, according to Grant Wiltbank, chief of the Toledo-area fire district and executive director of the shared ambulance service.
“The idea was to secure a site that might be used for a joint station in the future,” Wiltbank said last week.
The property sits immediately south of the vast acreage adjacent to Interstate 5 that is expected to one day grow into an industrial park.
It’s all zoned for industrial use and once the area gets water and sewer and development begins, it would have become prohibitively expensive to move there, Wiltbank said.
Their former base was a 1970s single-wide, one bedroom mobile home that was in rough shape when they got it, Wiltbank said. It sat just north of state Route 505 at exit 63 just west of the freeway.
“It worked for what we needed,” Paramedic Kirk Johnston said when he returned from a call to the 2,200-square-foot house one afternoon early last week. “This is just so much … there’s no comparison.”
A big change is being able to park the ambulance inside. The spacious garage will really help, especially in the winter time, said Paramedic Delaney Haddow.
“When it snowed and stuff, we’d have to unbury the ambulance to get out,” she said.
The group, officially named the Interlocal Organization of Lewis County Fire Districts 2, 7 and 15 serves the areas of Toledo, Vader and Winlock, and also responds in Ryderwood. It continues to house three of its paramedics next to the Lewis County Fire District 5 station on Jackson Highway at Avery Road East. Those crews serve the areas covered by fire districts in Napavine, Onalaska, Salkum and Mossyrock.
Inside the new place is a comfy couch and two recliners, and even a bonus room being furnished with hand-me-down exercise equipment. Outside the front door is South Military Road which drops directly into Vader.
Most of their medical calls are for problems such as difficulty breathing or chest pains, but in the summer the calls for trauma go up, the two paramedics said. The changes help carve seconds off response times, according to Wiltbank.
Call volume for the emergency responders feels like it’s at least doubled since she began with South Lewis County EMS in January 2002, Haddow said as she showed off the new quarters. That should only continue, they think. The long term growth in Lewis County is expected in the south portions, according to Wiltbank.
The schedule change means there will be two paramedics on duty at night, where before there was only one.
“We’re also doing transports from Morton General Hospital to wherever they need to go,” Haddow said. “So like last night, I took somebody from Morton to St. Pete’s, so that left a paramedic on duty.”
The groups’ revenue comes from the fees charged for transports.
They’re now doing business as Lewis County Medic 1, a change that should help the public more easily understand what they do, the two medics said.
That will show up on their paperwork, on new uniforms and over time, with the re-lettering of their rigs.
“South Lewis County EMS was just too long of a name,” Johnston said. “People would say, what’s that?”