Wilton Fire and EMS struggling to find enough EMTs

WILTON, Iowa-- The Wilton Fire Department and EMS responded to more than 300 emergency calls last year. Most of them were medical emergencies, but some calls are going unanswered because there aren't enough people volunteering.

"Pretty much our day calls kind of go unanswered because some of us, well all of us, have a full-time job," says Susan Dykema-Sterner, the Wilton EMS Coordinator.

Right now, the department has 27 members: four EMTs, 16 firefighters and seven people trained to do both jobs.

"We have to balance our lives and personal lives, and this is all volunteer," Dykema-Sterner says.

Assistant Fire Chief James Schipp says EMTs can get to a call in as little as three minutes from the station. But a Wilton first responder isn't able to respond to a call, people in crisis have to wait for an ambulance from Durant, Tipton or Muscatine. They could be waiting for up to 15 minutes for those responders to arrive.

"Time is of the essence when somebody's hurt," Schipp says.

The department is looking to bring about ten more EMTs onto the team. But Dykema-Sterner says it's difficult balancing personal time with a full-time job and volunteering with the department.

"Unfortunately, I think volunteerism is a dying art," she says. "Hopefully we can get this word out and get some volunteers in and go from there."

To become an EMT, Dykema-Sterner says people have to complete a 12-week course, which can cost more than $1,500. She says it's another deterrent because the department can't always cover those costs.

"That's not including the gear and the supplies and we need to get a radio and that type of thing," she adds.

Schipp says it's worth the time.

"I like coming down here and helping people," he says. A lot of them I know. It's giving back to the community."

To become a volunteer, the Wilton Fire Department says to visit its website or stop into the station for an application.

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