History of the Ambulance Service
The history of Summit County Ambulance Service is not all that different from the history of Summit County or the West as a whole.The earliest attempt at an organized ambulance service in the area dates back to the early 1960's. It was during this era that physician John I. Smith and Dentist Jerry Peterson took it upon themselves to transport patients from The County to hospitals in the Denver area. Despite the presence of hospitals in Leadville and Kremmling, the service has always transported patients from local clinics and doctors' offices to the Denver metro area.
Vehicles in use during the 60's included a Volkswagen Microbus and a temperamental Pontiac ambulance donated by Reed Ambulance Service in Denver. When the service entered the 1970's, an appeal was made by a small group of volunteers to have Summit County government assume the costs of maintaining an ambulance. It was in this era that many of the local volunteer fire departments began to form and respond to emergencies alongside the ambulance service volunteers.
As the service entered the late 70's and early 80's a new set of volunteers led by Egon Gerson began to emerge. During the eighties a paid director and assistant director were added to help run calls and manage the growing day-to-day business of the service. Directors of the day included Jim Peterson and Pam Miller and Assistant Director Eric Schmidt. Staffing was expanded again in the late eighties to provide volunteer ambulance technicians seven days a week and later 24 hours a day. Most calls in this era were handled by EMT-intermediates with the first paramedics entering the service in the mid to late eighties.
Calls in the eighties were still run by volunteers who responded from home as time allowed. Initially, volunteers were paid a small stipend. As the service grew, these volunteers eventually became contract employees and then part-time/volunteer employees. This system would stay with the service until 1998. As needs grew, facilities were built to house ambulances in Silverthorne and Breckenridge. Ambulances were also stationed in Summit Cove and Dillon to facilitate quick response by volunteers from their homes.
In 1982, Jenifer Bartels and Edward Ivison were killed in a line of duty motor vehicle accident on Vail Pass while returning from Grand Junction. They are believed to have fallen asleep after driving over 600 miles that shift. Due to the long transport times associated with our county's medical needs, the concern over ambulance personnel fatigue is constant.
New Accommodations & Assets
During the next few decades, the service was led by Bob Mosbaugh, Gary Lindstrom, Mel Stewart, John Brooks, Tom Candlin, Sean Caffrey, and Marc Burdick. Dramatic change began in 1997 with the completion of the Emergency Services Building. This facility incorporates the headquarters of the Ambulance Service, 9-1-1 dispatch, ambulance quarters, and the Sheriff's substation.
The years 1999 and 2000 saw the service transition to a full-time operation with 3 - 5 paramedic ambulances staffed 24/7. At this time, call volume has grown to approximately 4,000 calls per year where it has remained steady for the past several years.
The past decade has seen more growth in Summit County, including the opening of a Level 3 trauma center at Saint Anthony's Summit Medical Center, the first inpatient hospital in the area.
Many of the cast of characters mentioned above, and many more who have worked for the Summit County Ambulance Service can still be found in the area and throughout EMS in Colorado. The spirit of dedication and volunteerism upon which the service was built can now be seen in the professionalism of our full and part-time staff.