Hunt:County’s Emergency Service Members Wear Many Hats | Hunt(ing) in Colorado
by Jeff Hunt
Aug 12, 2007 | 459 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Peter Shelton, View to the West columnist for The Watch, signaled me out of the bullpen again this week.

A couple weeks ago, I filled in for him when he took off to California for a family gathering. This time, he’s there yet again, but this time for a class reunion. So while Peter’s living it up with his former cohorts, I’ll do my best to fill his shoes, and his space.

I’ve been living in Ridgway for pretty near a year now, and have been with The Watch since Dec. 1, so I’m going to take a couple minutes of your time and give credit where credit is due in what I’ve seen since I arrived.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I were practically raised by a dispatcher – heck, we even called her “grandma.” That’s because my parents were involved in my hometown’s EMS – Dad was a driver and Mom was an EMT. One of the things I remember the most about growing up in an ambulance barn is getting to play in an ambulance whenever I wanted. Maybe that’s why I have such respect for our local agencies.

I stopped in to pick up a pizza at Panny’s in Ridgway last Wednesday evening and ran into Junior. You all know who he is – our fearless leader of law enforcement, the Ouray County sheriff, Dominic Mattivi. But he’s more than just a law man.

Two days before picking up said pizza, I was in Ouray early, searching for Junior. But oddly enough, I already knew where he was – driving the Ouray Ambulance, which had an early-morning call for a fall victim. He returned soon enough and we went about the business at hand of the information I was then seeking.

Back to Wednesday at Panny’s, where Junior also works. I walked in and Junior gave me a big “Hey there.” My journalistic side reared its ugly head – no, I didn’t say I was ugly – and I asked some questions for a possible story. I broke the ice with a comment to Junior that, “I see you everywhere working, is there anything you don’t do?” Junior paused, and paused, and paused, and came up with, “Well, I don’t know. I’m sure there is something.”

You see, Junior, like numerous Ouray County residents, wears many hats, sometimes literally, as part of the county’s emergency response agencies. After a few minutes of bantering, it finally hit Junior of all the “hats” he wears.

“I’m the sheriff. I work the ambulance. I’m on the [Ouray] fire department. And I’m on the [county] extrication team,” he rattled off.

Junior proceeded to tell a story of how one night he rolled all of those duties into one. “We had a fire near Whispering Pines, and I was the first one on scene, so I got out of my [patrol vehicle] and put on my [fireman’s helmet] and was putting on my gear, with my gun on, and then the trucks started arriving, so I staged them and went back to being the sheriff,” he said. “Then, I was also on the ambulance that night, so we got a call. I started to it and got stuck in a snow bank because it was snowing really hard and the guys [firemen] had to pull me out. So then I get to the barn and jump out and take all my fire gear off and put on my stethoscope, all while carrying my gun.”

After leaving Panny’s that night, it got me thinking there are quite a few area residents that kinda fit into Junior’s mold – way too many to name.

I also got to thinking about when Junior mentioned the extrication team. It reminded me of how skilled these men are. I’ve personally been at three accident scenes in the county within the last four months where the members of this team had to cut drivers out of their wrecked vehicles. These guys do impressive work and it’s the most well-orchestrated organized chaos I’ve ever seen.

I was at one accident scene at the Dutch Charlie entrance of Ridgway State Park where Squad 11, the extrication team, had finished cutting a driver out of a car. Not only did EMS Chief Medic Norm Rooker give the guys a well-deserved thanks, but so did Ridgway Fire Lieutenant John Young, who was making reference not only to Squad 11’s quick response to the current accident, but also to the extrication of a gentleman trapped in his jeep near Ridgway about a month prior. Young passed along a “thanks” on behalf of the driver, who was a part-time resident and knew Young well.

My hat’s off to the guys of Squad 11, because if they weren’t at our disposal, what would Ouray County have? I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be a trapped driver waiting on a team from Montrose to come cut me out, that’s for sure.

So in the end, I guess what I’m getting at is I greatly appreciate all the different hats the men and women of the Ouray County EMS, as well as the contributing agencies – Ridgway Marshal’s Department, Junior’s posse, the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team (man, that’s a whole other story), and the Ouray Police Department – wear in the county, which Junior called “one big community.”

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