MELLEN, WI-- The new year posed a new challenge to residents in rural northwest Wisconsin when
Great Divide Ambulance stopped serving the area on January 1st, 2021.
To keep everyone safe, new programs picked up the slack. That includes the Ashland Fire Department.
"If the volunteer services are struggling, that puts a bigger strain on the career services such as Ashland Fire. We are getting requested to assist them more and more which ties up resources from our community, and lessens our ability to provide care to our community," said Lt. Matt Spangler with the Ashland Fire Department.
Lt. Spangler attributes the strain to a lack of interested applicants.
He said if more people wanted to become EMTs this gap in service may not have been an issue.
"A lot of these townships were not able to get staff trained prior to the January 1st deadline occurring and they were left in a bad position," said Spangler.
Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) was shocked to hear about the gap in service during her trip to Mellen on Thursday.
She wants to get more funding to these rural townships, incentiviz3ing people to be paramedics even as a volunteer.
“We've got to figure out a way to create greater incentive and greater support for those who work full time and volunteer on top of that, so that they can have more robust departments that are really serving the community," said Sen. Baldwin.
Despite the difficult position, Baldwin said she believes communities are working hard to make sure everyone gets the care they need.
“I hope that all Wisconsin residents can be assured that their communities are fighting to make sure they meet not only obligations, but serve in the spirit of neighbor helping neighbor," said Sen. Baldwin.
According to Lt. Spangler, as of right now, all the townships are covered with EMS service, but more volunteers are still needed.