There’s a lot that can be said of anyone willing to run toward a burning building while everyone else is running away. As much can be said of someone who will drive and ambulance through busy intersections of a main street when you need help the most. Truth be told, I have always had nothing but admiration for local firefighters and EMTs, so a tag-along with the crew at the Norwich Fire Department for this week’s Punching the Clock was nothing short of an honor for me.
“A lot of people dont’ really realize just how much we do here. You never know when a call is going to come in or what it’s going to be,” explained NFD Chief Tracy Chawgo, referring to the department’s two-fold operation of fire and EMS responsibilities. The department currently staffs 15 full-time employees and four part-time, with additional help from countless volunteers. “We’re too busy to be all volunteer, but too small to be all paid. We couldn’t do what we do without those volunteers,” he said.
My shift started shortly after 10 a.m., almost four hours after the regular crew reported for duty. Chief Chawgo turned me over to Steve Cady, one of the EMTs on staff that day. In the world of EMTs, Cady has more than enough experience to boast, serving with the City of Norwich as well as the Chenango County 911 dispatch center. Cady had all of two minutes to give me the run-down of the day-to-day operations at the fire station when an emergency call came in, reaffirming Chawgo’s statement that you never know what to expect.
I jumped in the back of one of the three ambulances stationed at NFD, along with volunteer Zach Maricle. “About 80 percent of all our calls are EMT related,” Cady called from the front seat as the ambulance turned out of the fire station onto East Main Street. “And it’s not unusual to have another call while we’re out.”