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Port Washington Volunteer Fire Department:
Fire Medic Company
In 1927 the members of the Port Washington Fire Department first saw the need for an ambulance in the community and in that year a 1917 army surplus ambulance was purchased for fifty dollars. William Hewitt, who became the first chairman of the "Ambulance Committee", began working with many other members at first primarily aiding civilians and firefighters who were injured at fires. However, they soon began treating and transporting the sick and injured whenever needed. The PWFD members successfully performed this function along with their firefighting duties for the next 51 years before Fire Medic Company No. 1 was formed.
Getting By With A Little Help From Our Friends
From the beginning, the operation of the ambulance was financed by donations from the individual fire companies and public donations solicited door to door by department members. This funding method continued into the 1970s when the costs for operating the ambulance service exceeded the amount that could be raised through donations. Thereafter annual funding for the ambulance was entirely added to the annual fire department budget.
A succession of ambulances followed the first vehicle purchased in 1927. They included a 1930 Studebaker President Eight ambulance; a 1938 Buick ambulance; a 1948 Buick Roadmaster ambulance; a circa 1955 Cadillac ambulance; and a series of Cadillac ambulances in the 1960s and 1970s. The funds for most of the ambulances were raised at least partially through donations. In 1961 Hewitt retired as chairman of the ambulance committee after 34 years of dedicated service and Ex-Chief Edward Piccardo was named to head the committee. Chief Piccardo continued as one of the driving forces throughout the vast changes in pre-hospital medicine during the sixties and seventies.
Changing With the Times
During the seventies EMS came of age in the United States and the PWFD was on the leading edge of these advances. Great strides were made in organized basic and advanced life support, medical control through telemetry, and fundamental operating principles which we today take for granted as "obvious". The new technology required a larger ambulance, and in 1975, the PWFD purchased its first "modular/box" ambulance as opposed to the old "big station wagon" style used up until that point.
During the same time the demands on the ambulance squad members increased dramatically. Not only was the volume of ambulance calls increasing rapidly due to community growth, but the advances in EMS standards and technology required hundreds of hours of formal training from members also fully involved in firefighting duties. Rather than waiting until the department could no longer handle its EMS responsibilities properly, the decision was made to find a better way of meeting this increased challenge.
The "Birth" Of Fire Medic Company No. 1
In the 1970s a committee was formed to develop a new EMS plan for the community. The result of this committee's work was the "fire medic" concept wherein a group of fire department members could perform all of their required activities as EMS providers without requiring firefighting activities as the three fire companies did.
In 1979 the "Fire Medic Association" was formed. They began a membership drive, started EMT and AEMT classes, as well as establishing the constitution and bylaws of the new group. After a year of hard work, under the leadership of PWFD members Robert Johnston, Dennis Dermody, as well as many others, the group became Fire Medic Company No. 1 of the Port Washington Fire Department in March of 1979. In the initial years the Company shared space at Department Headquarters on Port Washington Boulevard.
First Class Service
Fire Medic Company No. 1 has grown to an organization that answers over 2000 calls annually with its three Advanced Life Support ambulances, as well as a Primary Response Vehicle that provides quick response by trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Paramedics operating twenty-four hours a day.
In 1991, after outgrowing the space it shared at Department Headquarters, Fire Medic Company moved into its new headquarters at 65 Harbor Road thus giving EMS a new home in Port Washington from which it could grow even more. With the move, centrally located in town, the average time of response to an emergency call anywhere in Port Washington was improved to about three and a half minutes.
Over twenty-five years after it was organized, Fire Medic Company No. 1 is considered among the best in the country. All of its members are proud to have served the community for over a quarter century and it looks forward to the many years to come with our continued exemplary service.