Thu. May 23rd, 2024

By Linda Sutter – July 26, 2022

They want exclusive operation.

Del Norte Ambulance is going before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. The Owner of Del Norte Ambulance wants the county to sign a contract for an exclusive provider of Emergency Medical Services in Del Norte County. But hold the phone folks, information from the AD HOC committee is damning.

The Ad Hoc Committee divided this project into three groups; First Responders, Public Service Providers, and Private Citizens. Each group was asked questions pertinent to their scope of services.

First Responders, Crescent City Fire and Rescue responders were interviewed April 6, 2022. Those present were Chief Gillespie, and Chief James Weiland. Chief Ryan Wakefield provided written answers to his questions presented. Fort Dick Fire Protection District, Gasquet Fire Protection District, and Klamath Protection Fire District, were all interviewed on April 11, 2022. Those present were Fort Dick Fire Randy Crawford, Klamath Fire District Loni Levi, Gasquet Fire District Nick Karonopolous. Law Enforcement interviews with California Highway Patrol Commander Dupee and Crescent City Police Chief Griffin were conducted on April 11, 2022 as well. Del Norte County Sheriff was not available at that time.

Performance Discussion:

The majority of the stakeholders in the category are fire fighters who have had direct contact with the Del Norte Ambulance EMT’s on a regular day to day basis. They were the most critical of Del Norte Ambulance.

Their complaints ranged from Del Norte Ambulance not using sterile bandages, wherein gauze was repackaged in baggies, EMT’s and some paramedics were disheveled, unprofessional in appearance, to “not moving with purpose,” referring to a call of a non-responsive 2 year old in which the fire department, who was across town on another call, got there sooner than the Del Norte Ambulance.

Response times, failure to replace equipment or supplies, lack of professionalism, were the top complaints.

The Stakeholders who made the complaints were able to follow up each criticism with a specific example to support their claim. These stories included times EMT’s responding to the scene provided inaccurate information, refused to follow direction of Incident Command System, and did not cooperate with other responders on the scene.

When asked about the EMT’s performance answers included, adequate, average, or horrible. One Fire Chief stated, “there are some conscientious people in the field but for some they need to be placed on a performance improvement plan.”

The Law Enforcement found the Del Norte Ambulance was responsive and respectable. They have a great relationship and appreciate their assistance with CPR courses as well as community engagement. According to Commander Dupee who is in charge of a yearly ambulance inspection report, “Del Norte Ambulance has been in compliance for six years.

Police Chief Griffin has appreciated their training in administering Narcan, a service he has found to be invaluable.

Fire Departments were most outspoken. Their concern was that the ambulance was not always staffed with a paramedic only a basic life support EMT and felt this did not serve the community. Del Norte Ambulance did not have enough advanced life support EMT’s just Basic life support. In fact The Del Norte Ambulance once blamed an elderly woman for not calling in her husband’s conditions right.


Del Norte Ambulance does not notify the Fire Departments of their staff shortages which causes the Fire departments to make the hard decision to load in their vehicles to transport to the hospitals. Currently Del Norte Ambulance has a policy that states the ambulance cannot be taken off the road which leads into another set of issues.

Rural areas such as Gasquet and Klamath have unmaintained county roads. This certainly would have to change in order for Del Norte Ambulance to become an exclusive medical transport provider of emergency services.

Del Norte Ambulance has been in service for 30 years. There appears to be no other competition in that respect. The hospital and Behavioral Health felt Del Norte Ambulance were reliable and there have been issues but nothing major.

  1. Having been in fire service as a volunteer for over 15 years until my retirement, I have a different perspective. Considering all the comments, I noted that agencies other than Crescent Fire had no issues. Crescent Fire seems to be in a growth mode and seeking ways to increase paid staffing and building more funding sources. Crescent Fire often has personnel on duty, so they may be responding at the same time as the ambulance. I often did ambulance ride along where I was for skills. At times we were just becoming available from a previous call or run. Before promoting big changes, I would want to look at specifics. Which call, what were circumstances, what was the actual time difference between Fire and medical? I am suspicious of local politics which we seem to have a lot of here.

  2. During the BOS meeting Ron Sandler who is proprietor of Del Norte Ambulance had ample opportunity to deny or dispute any information the Ad Hoc Committee provided in their report, however, Mr. Sandler did not deny or refute the damning information.

    Del Norte County needs an ambulance of people who are professional in every sense of the word. Hank Akin provided great insight on Del Norte Journal, this was his thoughts on the matter, “Hank Akin
    One of the professed caveats for the request, was to qualify the privately owned (for profit) company, to qualify for additional funding opportunities.
    I find it a bit disconcerting that a private, profit accumulated organization relies on county funded entities for the majority of services. Since 94% of the fire department calls are medical related, maybe the fire department should train advanced life support and just take over the ambulance service and qualify for funding instead of raising taxes to subsidize a private company wanting funding to pad their bottom line.”
    Very good insight and thoughts on this matter.

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