By Peter Vankevich
Editor’s note: The OVFD has several new volunteers this year. We will do a story on this in the near future. To see the importance of the need for volunteers, see our editorial published earlier in the year by clicking here .
The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department (OVFD) has had a busy spring and early summer having responded to 18 medevacs on the island from March 10 to June 21 and several more since that reporging period. By contrast, last year from Jan. 1 to June 15, there were 6 medevacs by helicopter.
These calls can come in at any time, including one at 4 a.m. recently.
Whenever the Hyde County’s EMS team on the island receives a call to reposnd to a health emergency, an OVFD medical responder heads out to assist at the scene. This is often Assistant Chief Mark Justice.
If a paramedic determines a patient requires immediate hospitalization, a helicopter is requested, either from Greenville or Norfolk and the OVFD members are paged to report to the landing zone. It takes about 40 minutes air-time for a helicopter to land on Ocracoke from Greenville.
Volunteers take the fire trucks to the helipad located at the island’s airport, turn on the floodlights if at night, open the gates, assist the EMS and flight staff in getting the person onto the helicopter and are on standby should be there be an accident.
In the last three months, the OVFD medical responders attended more than 50 calls with the EMS, reported Dick Jacoby, president of the Ocracoke Fire Prevention Association, the adjunct to the department.
The recent highly publicized shark attack that occurred at lifeguard beach on July 1 was well-coordinated by the lifeguards on duty, the EMS and the OVFD to ensure that the seriously injured person was safely and quickly taken off-island to the level 1 trauma center at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Click here for more details.
Volunteers also responded recently to a fire alarm and a vehicle fire.
Jacoby reminds everyone that all fireworks, including sparklers, are banned on Ocracoke. The high winds that can occur here on a moment’s notice could contribute to a major fire due to an errant incendiary device.
The annual Firemen’s Ball May 23 raised more than $62,000, Jacoby reported. Funds from this major fundraiser are vital to maintaining the company’s response readiness.
Jacoby expressed appreciation to the many people who volunteered their time, donated money or auction items or attended.
The Ocracoke Rockers, The Aaron Caswell Band and The Dune Dogs provided the music.
The OVFD has a goal of having all houses on the island marked with reflective street number signs to aid the EMS in locating homes in emergencies.
To date, 263 orders for house numbers have been requested out of about 1,000 houses on the island.
Free “Vial of Life” containers are available for those who live on Ocracoke. It’s a simple container to house the list of medications people take plus other important medical information to aid EMS in emergencies.
Forms for ordering reflective signs ($16) and Vial of Life kits are posted on the bulletin board at the post office. Tax-deductible donations may be mailed to: P.O. Box 322, Ocracoke, NC 27960.
Fire department T-shirts can be purchased at the Island Ragpicker, Books to Be Red, or periodically at the firehouse. Proceeds from these T-shirts items help support the high costs in maintaining a fire department in a remote location such as Ocracoke.
The OVFD welcomes new volunteers, not only to be a firefighter, but also to help with administrative work as well as building and grounds maintenance. See the link to the above editorial.
Meetings are alternate Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the new fire station, 822 Irvin Garrish Hwy. The next two meetings will be July 23 and Aug. 6. Those interested in helping out can just show up.
Editor’s note: Peter Vankevich is a volunteer firefighter.