2016-10-13 / Life in Leelanau

Newest emergency responders sleep better with overnight housing unit

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

RONNIE DUBOIS and Joe Sharrow (from left) are two new full-time firefighter/EMTs working for Cedar Area Fire & Rescue. They are shown here in the kitchen of the temporary housing unit installed to provide overnight accommodations to staff. RONNIE DUBOIS and Joe Sharrow (from left) are two new full-time firefighter/EMTs working for Cedar Area Fire & Rescue. They are shown here in the kitchen of the temporary housing unit installed to provide overnight accommodations to staff. The new firefighter and emergency medical technicians (EMT) in Cedar, arguably the youngest EMTs working in Leelanau County, represent the changing face of a new department that has offered 24/7 Basic Life Support for just a couple months.

Joe Sharrow, 21, has been with the department since Feb. 1. His partner on the day shift last week, Ronnie Dubois, is 24.

“I’m a third generation firefighter,” said Sharrow, a native of Goodrich, who earned his firefighter certification at Oakland Community College. “I had always vacationed here, so when I saw a full time position available here, I jumped at the chance.

“It’s my dream job in my dream place.”

It’s been just a couple months since the department began offering full time BLS. Expanding the service was a goal of the new Cedar Area Fire and Rescue Board that took over the former Cedar Fire Department on April 1.

The board includes representatives from Centerville, Cleveland, Kasson and Solon townships plus an at-large representative whose years in the field provide a great perspective on firefighting as a career.

John DePuy, Glen Arbor Township Fire Department chief from 1994 through 2006, was among the first licensed EMTs in 1975.

“It was all-volunteer when I started,” said DePuy, who retired for a second time in 2013 after working as Munson Healthcare’s regional training manager, which provides education for not only EMTs, but Michigan First Responders (MFR) and paramedics. “I had no idea what I was getting into… It was just part of living in a small community.”

Prior to 1978 there was no state law defining who could respond to emergencies or what training and certification was needed. The only thing offered locally was an advanced first aid course taught by the county chapter of the American Red Cross.

“PA 168 changed all that,” DePuy said. “It set out the rules and regulations for EMS (emergency medical service) providers.”

Sharrow and Dubois, the new EMT/ firefighters, work 24-hour shifts which are made possible with the addition of a temporary housing unit adjacent to the fire hall in Cedar.

Previously, on-call paid volunteers and staff members slept on futons in the community meeting room at the hall so they could more quickly respond to calls for help.

Since Aug. 14, the duty crew has had new — albeit temporary — overnight housing in a self-contained unit similar to those used by workers in remote areas drilling for oil or gas. Cedar, the last of local departments to provide housing for its staff, is working on a permanent solution as plans are now being drawn for an addition of living space on the existing fire hall in Cedar.

The temporary housing includes two separate rooms for sleeping, an office, living area and kitchen that serves as their home away from home.

“I’ve got to say that compared to the futon, I’m sleeping a lot better at night,” said Sharrow, who lives in Traverse City. Debois’ official address is Houghton Lake, at least until he can find closer accommodations.

“(Housing) is all we could ask for,” he said.

Return to top