Dupo ambulance service going strong after 45 years

Pictured, from left, are Ron Dell, Ron Eckerd, John Mogg, EMT Kimberley Kuni, Kerry Foster, and Danny Biggs.
(Sean McGowan photo)

A couple highlights came to Dupo Fire Protection District Board President Danny Biggs’ mind when describing the past 45 years Dupo ambulance service has been in the community.

For instance, Dupo equipment have only been involved in three traffic accidents since the service came to the community in 1972. One of these involved an ambulance going off the road and hitting a tree head-on in Cahokia.

“That was a bad deal. The state had an ambulance in Sparta that we used until we got ours fixed, which took about a month,” Kerry Foster, fire protection district board treasurer, said.

Biggs also prides himself on being out on the ambulance service’s very first call at a time when the community averaged two to three calls per week. Now, according to paramedic committee coordinator Ron Dell, the service can see anywhere from 25 to 50 calls per week.

“I remember one time we had 11 calls in a 24-hour period,” Ron Eckerd, Dupo EMT and firefighter, said.

The ambulance service had its humble beginnings when then-Dupo assistant fire chief Richard Vallowe formed an ambulance committee with firefighters Gene Chaplain and Ray Sequin. Since its inception, Dupo’s ambulance service has improved its capabilities from providing advanced first aid to having EMTs, and in 1996, the service’s first paramedic unit was established.

The organization employs eight paramedics, 15 EMTs and two drivers.

The ambulance service also performs various acts of community service. These include home visits for the elderly in the summer months and providing EMT and CPR classes for residents. Dell added the ambulance service is working on doing free blood pressure readings and other checks for senior citizens at the community center.

He said the ambulance service may host an anniversary open house in the fall, but no plans have been solidified. For more information on the organization, go to villageofdupo.org.

The ambulance service operates under the Dupo Fire Protection District, which is able to pay a partial wage to ambulance personnel. But Foster said 12-hour shifts and sleepless nights at the ambulance garage still provide a challenge.

“When you’re trying to hold down a job and you have family to take care of, you have got to be able to make time for this and like what you’re doing,” Foster said.

That’s why Dell and other emergency responders are able to take pride in what they do.

“It takes a certain type of person to do this, because you see things that you can’t unsee,” he said.

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