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Summit EMS Assists Berkeley Heights and Elizabeth

Summit Volunteer EMS and New Providence EMS on the scene of the 11/27 Berkeley Heights brush fire.
The Union County/Elizabeth FD Medical Ambulance Bus during a visit to Summit in 2012. Credits: Photo by J Staunton
The Summit Volunteer EMS Special Operations unit.

Members of the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad were among the many mutual aid resources to respond to the scene of a brush fire in Berkeley Heights yesterday. The fire covered more than 7 acres on a steep hill along route 78 westbound and just below a residential neighborhood in Berkeley Heights. Firefighters from towns in Union, Morris and Somerset counties responded and the on-scene commander requested the Berkeley Heights Rescue Squad to set up a rehab operation. The Summit Volunteer Squad was requested to assist along with New Providence EMS.  Summit volunteer EMTs Paul Raynolds and James Rath answered the call for help.

On scene rehabilitation is very important for responders when the incident lasts for several hours as was the case yesterday. Strenuous firefighting operations are performed in shifts and the rehab team evaluates each firefighter before they can return to those duties. The team also treats any injuries that may occur.  The Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad is well known in the region for its on scene rehab capabilities being among the first agencies to establish such a team, offer specialized training for its members and obtain specialized equipment for the task.  Summit volunteer EMTs remained on scene in Berkeley Heights for about 3 hours until the fire was declared extinguished.

Earlier this month, Summit EMS volunteers were also requested to assist Elizabeth at the scene of a natural gas explosion.  The morning explosion leveled a 2 family home and severely damaged 2 adjoining buildings. 1 person was killed and 13 injured in the blast.   Firefighters from several neighboring towns as well as a regional urban search and rescue team responded to conduct a thorough search for additional survivors or victims.  The large response lasted for several hours and required an on scene rehabilitation operation for the responders.  That’s when the Elizabeth chief reached out to Summit for help. The Summit EMS Rehab team normally responds with its special operations trailer stocked with supplies needed for a responder rehab as well as treatment of mass casualties.  In this case, Elizabeth needed just manpower and Summit Captain Kari Phair sent EMTs James Rath and Greg Vartan. On arrival, Summit’s volunteers were assigned to staff the Medical Ambulance Bus which was used for the rehab operation.  Fortunately, there were no responder injuries.  Two cats were rescued during the operation and Summit’s crew helped get them both placed with neighbors. After the rehab operation wrapped up, Summit’s crew was asked to relocate to the command post and stand-by while the utilities were removed and demolition begun.

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Providing assistance known as “mutual aid” to other municipalities is nothing new for the members of Summit Volunteer EMS. They answered over 150 requests for mutual aid last year.

The all volunteer First Aid Squad is always looking for new members to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information, please call 908-277-9479, or visit their web site at: www.summitems.org.

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