MINA - A lack of emergency medical technicians within the Findley Lake Fire Department is forcing Mina town officials to look elsewhere.
The town has asked to contract with the village of Sherman for its emergency medical services. EMTs from the Stanley Hose Co. already travel to Mina several times a year in a mutual aid agreement pact with Findley Lake - the sole fire department in the town.
The contract, according to Stanley Hose Fire Chief Matt Oehlbeck, would provide a financial incentive in exchange for the expanded coverage. The arrangement would cover fuel costs and equipment for the Sherman fire department.
"My whole feeling is that I wish it didn't have to happen," Oehlbeck said. "It's just so hard to get EMTs these days. They're making it so tough with all the training and requirements.
"Fortunately for us, we haven't had that problem here."
The Stanley Hose Company has eight EMTs and two paramedics.
Mina Supervisor Rebecca Brumagin requested the contract at a recent Sherman meeting.
"We have appreciated the support of Stanley Hose in the last couple of years," she said. "You have been great to us, and we appreciate it."
Brumagin said the $15,000 contract, officially between the town of Mina and village of Sherman, would cover the 2013 calendar year. Attorneys currently are reviewing the deal before it is presented to the town and village for approval.
Brumagin stressed firefighters from Findley Lake would continue to respond to calls.
"Our fire department will still be very involved in the emergency calls here," she said.
County fire officials, meanwhile, said agreements between fire departments are nothing new to Chautauqua County.
"Mutual aid is so effective," said Julius Leone, county director of EMS. "We have a strong system here in the county, and it's becoming more prevalent and used on a regular basis."
Leone estimated 80 percent of all emergencies handled by fire departments are for EMS. He noted New York state's rigorous testing to become an EMT, which requires hours of classroom and clinical time within a hospital. Re-certification every few years also discourages many to remain a technician, he said.
"I know there's more of a challenge to get these guys in there," Leone said. "People think firefighters just hold hose and squirt water on a fire. But there's way more to it."
David Prenatt contributed to this story.