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Chatham Emergency Services celebrates 60 years of service

Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 11:43 AM EST
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CHATHAM CO., Ga. (WTOC) - Chatham Emergency Services is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2021 - that’s 60 years of providing fire response to a large part of our area that otherwise would be uncovered by a local fire department. In that time, the organization has evolved and grown to match the changes within Chatham County.

“We’re the people who come on your worst day ever to make it better. And we’ll be there within minutes,” said Chuck Kearns, CEO of Chatham Emergency Services.

The mission of emergency services all across the country has been executed across Chatham County for six decades by a combination of volunteers and professionals.

“Think about it, if you live in Thunderbolt, Tybee, Port Wentworth, you have a fire department. If you don’t live in one of those municipalities, you don’t had a fire department. So, in 1961, a bunch of business people got together and said this is unacceptable, we have to have a fire department, and if the government is not going to provide it, we’re going to provide it. So, they went out and they bought a couple of fire trucks and they volunteered their time and a lot of them would take the trucks home on the weekend, and they’d hear the call and they’d take it from their house and go fight the fire. Well, that’s evolved,” said Tim Blanco, Board Chair of Chatham Emergency Services.

Chatham Emergency Services has grown as vigorously as the region it serves during the last 60 years to more than 400 personnel and 100 vehicles at 14 fire stations in unincorporated Chatham County.

During the last two decades, they expanded from fire service to also operate the ambulance service for local hospitals.

“We went from a couple hundred calls in the 1960s to now we’re running close to 100,000 calls in 2021,” said Blanco.

“When people call us, things have happened in their life that they no longer have control over. Their house is on fire, they’re having chest pains, they’re in a car accident. They need someone to come make it better and that’s what we do,” said Kearns.

Timea Higgins wanted a closer look at what Chatham Emergency does because she was not conscious when they did it for her in April of 2020.

“Technically, they said it was a blood clot that clogged everything and gave me a widow maker... I woke up 10 days later in the hospital in ICU,” said Timea Higgins, life was saved by Chatham Emergency Services.

Chatham Emergency saved her with one of their newest pieces of equipment, which administered expert CPR after she had died in her fiancé Gordon’s arms.

“That is what basically kept me alive. I was down for 83 minutes. But I’m back... from what Gordon said, he was a witness, he said they were amazing. He said ‘especially that girl’,’ who is now Pam. She’s going to be my bridesmaid,” Higgins said.

That rescue happened on Wilmington Island.

But Chatham Emergency has worked all across the county for 60 years, including outside their Garden City headquarters when someone pulled up with a loved one in cardiac distress while we were shooting this story.

But most emergencies don’t come to them.

“We go to everything. we’ve unfortunately been to the plane crash, the National Guard plane crash. The sugar refinery years ago, we were at that. Flooding calls, when we had Hurricane Matthew several years back, we cut down 1,200 trees that were blocking roads around 700 miles of unincorporated area so that emergency vehicles could get in. You name it, we do it,” Kearns said.

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