Caring for Washington

Jennifer Freeman
Washington emergency medical technicians and volunteer firefighters gathered Friday night with their families to celebrate National EMS Week. From left are Stephanie Haungs, Tim Wiese, Jennifer Wiese, Sam Wiese, 6, Nick Wiese, 5, Erica Wiese, Justin Hurd, 11, Suzanne and Michael Burhoe with their children, Blake Burhoe, 5, and Brock Burhoe, 3, Shawnda and Jai Windish, Gabrielle Lainhart, Courtney Cook, 13, Daniel and Kacy Lainhart with their sons, Miles and Colby, Jacob Fernald, Justin Fernald, 10, Randy Hurd, Mike Vaughn, Brian Barron, Jason and Jennifer Cook with their sons Evan, 6, and Dylan Cook, 8, Tyler Sauders, Theresa Vaughn with Samantha Hurd, 6, Todd Carroll and Chuck Fugitt.

The Washington Emergency Medical Services team gathered to celebrate National EMS Week with a potluck dinner Friday night at the fire station.

As the children played bags and kicked a soccer ball around, the men and women who volunteer or work as part of the Washington emergency medical services team chatted about the importance of family and community support.

 “It’s nice to get together, the kids play together. And it helps for families to be involved,” said Theresa Vaughn, wife of Washington Fire Chief Mike Vaughn. “We also want the kids to see why dad or mom has to leave when they get a call,” she added.

Vaughn and some of the other wives, including Jennifer Cook and Suzanne Burhoe, call themselves “the supporting cast,” organizing cookouts, holiday events and providing snacks and drinks on long calls.

For Jennifer Wiese and her husband Tim Wiese, the Washington Fire Department and EMS have been an integral part of their family life since the day they met.

“We met in June 1996 at the fire department and married in November 1998,” said Jennifer Wiese.

One of their wedding pictures even shows them on a fire truck.

A nuclear medicine technologist at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Jennifer Wiese is a volunteer emergency medical technician and her husband is also an EMT as well as a volunteer firefighter.

“We got used to our beepers going off during our dates,” she said.

With three children, the Wieses have worked out a system where Tim Wiese takes fire calls and Jennifer Wiese takes medical calls.

When the Wieses and a lot of the other volunteers started, the EMS team was completely voluntary.

Formed in 1961 by Robert Dubois and Charles Joesting, the original rescue squad consisted of about 10 volunteers. The squad officially became part of the Washington Fire Department in 1968 and on June 3, 1968, city council approved a payment of $3 per man per response.

In 1975, the 17-person squad responded to more than 200 emergency calls.

With population growth, call volume continued to increase, and Dec. 15, 1998, the Washington Volunteer Fire

Department and Rescue Squad Inc. began employing three full-time paramedics.

One of these original paramedics was Jai Windish, who 10 years later, became the squad’s first full-time chief.

In addition to Windish, the squad currently employs six full-time paramedics and has about 10 volunteer EMTs.

The EMTs staff two advanced life support ambulances, including one brand new one with a Washington panther painted on the side.

According to Windish, the squad responds to about 1,100 emergency calls per year with about 50 percent of these calls coming from elderly Washington residents.

Although the sign outside of the Washington Fire Department thanks the community for its support, National

EMS Week is a week to recognize the care and services provided by paid and volunteer emergency medical technicians who are often the first responders in an emergency.