1st ambulance class graduates

GLENDALE — Twelve ambulance operators have officially become members of the Fire Department’s new Basic Life Support program, which is scheduled to start today.

The 12 members of Class 1 graduated Tuesday from the Fire Department academy, earning the right to count themselves among the city’s first-ever ambulance operators.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. today, two ambulance operators will start answering service calls to transport patients with minor injuries to local hospitals, officials said.

“We view this group here, our new ambulance operators, as part of our future,” said Glendale Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.

Establishing the Basic Life Support program was more than a year in the making, officials said.

The program arose from a need to save the Fire Department money and free up paramedics, so they could respond more quickly to serious injury calls.

“This program was basically born out of difficult times,” Scoggins said.

The department is planning to hire eight more ambulance operators by March 1, said Battalion Chief Greg Godfrey, who heads up the Emergency Medical Service’s division.

To become ambulance operators, they had to apply, pass a written exam, impress the fire chief during an interview and complete training.

“Over the last two weeks, they have had 10 weeks’ worth of training in 10 days,” Godfrey said.

Of 218 applicants, 12 were selected.

They will partner up to work 12-hour shifts, which start at 7:30 a.m. and noon.

“The busiest part of the day is covered by two additional BLS-staffed ambulances because about 25% of the calls are BLS calls, so that frees up paramedics to go on to more serious calls,” said Greg Anderson, the program’s coordinator.

“It helps the whole city because it actually makes more paramedic units available.”

Anderson, who has previously worked in the city as a paramedic, was hired to manage the program.

“There is a lot of challenges, and I look forward to the opportunity to help out and make the whole program,” he said.

Sarah Cooper, 27, was a Verdugo Communications dispatcher, but stepped down to join the program.

She made the move in hopes of becoming a firefighter, she said.

About eight months ago, Santa Clarita resident Amira Grant-Lawrence, 29, said she made the life-changing decision to become a firefighter.

During the summer, she enrolled in emergency medical technician and fire technology courses.

“I thought this was a really good stepping stone to head me in the right direction,” Grant-Lawrence said.

She will start her first shift Saturday.

Quartz Hill resident Michael Ricker, 20, has always dreamed about working with a fire department and becoming a firefighter.

Joining Glendale fire’s ambulance operator program is the first step, he said.

“Because 80% to 85% of calls are medical, being in here is going to give us that base foundation . . . to eventually become firefighters in the future,” Ricker said.

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