SOUTHWEST HARBOR — “Rescue 2” or R2, as the second ambulance for the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Nursing Service is called, is scheduled to move down the road this month from one fire station to another.
Leaders of the Southwest Harbor Fire Department have agreed to make room in their station on Main Street to temporarily accommodate the second emergency response vehicle in the nonprofit’s fleet.
Last week selectmen unanimously approved an agreement for the storage of the ambulance from Nov. 30 until May 1, 2020. Selectman Kristin Hutchins recused herself from the vote as she serves as an ambulance driver and a board member for the Nursing Service.
R2 has been housed in a bay of the Bass Harbor Fire Station for at least the last 18 years, according to Tremont Fire Chief Keith Higgins.
“Tremont Fire Department let us stay there for a very long time,” said Sonia Field, a Nursing Service board member and ambulance driver for the last 15 years. “We see our time in the Bass Harbor station as over. They’ve been really supportive in helping us.”
Southwest Harbor-Tremont Nursing Service is a nonprofit organization that has provided ambulance service to both communities since the 1950s, according to Field.
There are 20 employees of the emergency response team that work primarily from a bay next to the Southwest Harbor Police Station on Village Green Way where R1 is housed. That ambulance responds to about 85 percent of the calls that come in for the two communities.
“We have medics on duty 24/7 in the station,” said Field, many of who come from as far away as Bangor. “Since we don’t have enough people available to respond as EMTs, we need to get people (from) off island.”
Emergency calls made to 911 for the service are dispatched through the Southwest Harbor police station after going to the Regional Communications Center in Hancock County.
In 2018, the Nursing Service responded to about 350 calls, down about 50 calls from recent years.
“What’s important is a call gets answered,” she said, about whether Tremont residents would be responded to in a timely manner.
In the 2010 census, Southwest Harbor had about 200 more year round residents than Tremont, 1,764 compared with 1,563.
When tasked with finding a new home for the second ambulance, the Nursing Service board members contemplated whether or not to keep it. They decided having two emergency response vehicles was the best way to continue their service.
“Having that second ambulance has really been a lifesaver for us,” Field told the Islander earlier this year.
Members of the Nursing Service’s board of directors started searching for a suitable storage location for the second ambulance more than a year ago. Criteria for storing an ambulance are pretty specific. When storing an ambulance, the building it is in needs to be heated, secure and easily and readily accessible throughout the year.
At the Nov. 26 meeting, Southwest Harbor Selectman Ryan Donahue expressed concern about whether medications in the ambulance would be secure in the town’s fire station. Hutchins said the fire station is locked, the ambulance is left ready to drive but all the medications are locked in separate compartments.
When the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department began the process of purchasing a new fire truck at the end of last year, they asked the nursing service if they could find another home for R2. A custom-built model, that town’s new fire truck is expected to arrive this month and be stored in one of the five bays of the Bass Harbor fire station.
“We loved having it there,” said Field about R2 being stored in Tremont. “I’m not quite sure what the plan in the spring will be.”