Kendall FD decommissions ambulance service after 54 years

Photos by Tom Rivers: Cole Hardenbrook, a member of the Kendall Fire Department, takes the radio out of the Kendall ambulance. The fire department ceased providing service at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. The Kendall ambulance has been sold to Niagara County for $40,000.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 January 2023 at 4:24 pm

KENDALL – The Kendall Fire Department held an open house today to thank the community for supporting the volunteer ambulance service since 1968.

Kendall ceased providing the service at 11:59 p.m. last night. It won’t be transporting patients any more, but the department will continue to respond to EMS calls, with Monroe Ambulance or another provider then taking people to the hospital if needed.

It is a bittersweet moment for the department, where many of the dedicated volunteers for the ambulance squad gathered at the fire hall.

The fire department wanted to thank the community for their donations and support since 1968 to allow the service to be offered for free. Kendall is the last fire department to offer an ambulance service for free in the Orleans County.

“We’re very proud of that,” Cole Hardenbrook, a Kendall Hardenbrook, said about the department’s longevity with the ambulance service.

Provided photos: Kendall EMTs pose for a group photo in front of the ambulance. This group includes from left: Al Adams, Sue Maslyn, Steve Balka, Cindy Wolck, Gary Crawford and Brian Hardenbook. Missing from photo is another EMT, Sue Kingsbury.

Hardenbrook and other firefighters spent part of the morning and afternoon removing equipment from the ambulance. The vehicle from 2010 has been sold for $40,000 to Niagara County. That sale covers nearly the full cost of buying a new Tahoe that will be used as a fly car for firefighters to respond to EMS calls. Some of the equipment from the ambulance will be shifted to the Tahoe.

The department is down to six active EMTs. Other volunteers would drive the ambulance and help with calls.

But in the past couple years, the department was missing many of the calls and relying increasingly on mutual aid.

Eric Maxon, one of the department’s volunteers the past 41 years, said the ambulance’s reputation was suffering from not responding to many of the calls.

“There’s nothing worse than having the whistle go off and have no one be there,” he said. “Our reputation was dwindling because we weren’t making the calls.”

These volunteers were part of the Kendall Ambulance Squad, with some as drivers, EMTs and other responders. In front row from left include: Dan Schultz, Steve Balka, Sue Maslyn and Eric Maxon. Back row: Cole Hardenbrook, Gary Crawford, Mike Schultz, Al Adams, Bill Hardenbrook, Rich Brelawski, Randy Davis and Blaine Young.

It was getting harder and harder for volunteers to meet the training requirements and give up the time to respond to a call and then make the transport to a Rochester hospital. Often the ambulance would have to wait at the hospitals to drop off patients. It could take five hours to go on some of the calls.

Maxon said the ambulance squad responded to 9,700 calls since its first call on March 7, 1968.

“Anything from a cut finger, to a massive heart attack to multi-car accidents, we did it all,” Maxon said.

Gary Crawford, a member of the ambulance squad since 1970 and the captain from 1985 to 2008, said volunteers used to be able to expect about a one-hour commitment for calls, back when then could do transports to hospitals in Albion and Brockport.

Now the transports take much longer, and the training requirements have gone from 80-hour classes to nearly 200 hours.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Some of the equipment was removed from the ambulance and set on a table inside the fire hall. Some of that equipment will be shifted to a new Tahoe that will function as a fly car for EMS calls.

Crawford said he is thankful the fire department was able to provide the service for so long. He recalled being at the Kendall Firemen’s Carnival when a young woman who had been badly injured in a car accident a few years before came to the carnival. She sought out the firefighters  to thank them for saving her life.

Crawford said there are other testimonials in letters and sometimes just in the grocery store, of people thanking the Kendall Ambulance Squad for its life-saving service.

Crawford and Maxon said Kendall EMTs and firefighters will continue to provide emergency medical care. They will often be the first on the scene, but won’t be transporting patients.

Al Adams, one of the EMTs, said the longer time commitments in training and responding to calls has kept some volunteers and potential active members on the sidelines. But he expects more people, including himself, to respond to more calls, knowing they won’t have to be committed for several hours.

“It’s going to be a lot easier to be a good neighbor,” he said about the EMS service in Kendall.

Eric Maxon shares some of the ambulance squad’s history. Initially there was a first aid squad that responded to its first call in October 1966. In February 1968 the department purchased its first ambulance, a used ambulance from 1964 for $2,100.