Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue has a busy morning

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue had a busy morning on Thursday, Oct. 26.

“We had multiple calls,” said Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin.

“Station 4 responded to a medical call. They were on that call when the accident on U.S. 441 north occurred.

“Around that same time, we had an accident at State Road 70 and State Road 710,” he continued.

“Then a medical call came in.

“Then a vehicle fire on the Prairie.

“We were fortunate it happened as an oncoming shift was coming on,” he said, which meant those staffers could back up those already on scene.

The City of Okeechobee Fire Department also assisted.

“If we had not been caught at shift change, we would have probably had two or three calls holding and waiting,” said the fire chief.

The busy morning started at 7:10 a.m., said Fire/Rescue Captain Ryan Hathaway.

“At 7:10 a.m., there was shortness of breath call on Potter Road. Rescue 4 responded.

“While they were on the scene of that call, a motor vehicle crash occurred,” he continued.

That accident involved a semi and a pickup, with a second semi involved on U.S. 441 N.
The driver of the pickup truck had to be extricated from the vehicle, he said. In addition, firefighters had to clean up a fuel spill and a chemical spill involving roofing tar.

Two persons were taken to Raulerson Hospital and one was airlifted to Lawnwood, he said.

Approximately 6 minutes after the U.S. 441 accident, there was another motor vehicle crash on 710 and 70, involving a garbage truck. One accident victim from that crash was airlifted to Lawnwood.

Both of these accidents involved extended extraction times lasting 30 to 45 minutes, he said.

U.S. 441 was closed for several hours due to the chemical spill.

At 7:50 a.m., a fire call came in. The city fire department responded to that call, he said.

County administrator Robbie Chartier said there are times every month when all of the stations are empty due to the high call volume.

“The public doesn’t always understand why we need all of those stations staffed,” she said.
Medical calls are up, she continued.

“When you look at the demographic of our medical situation here in Okeechobee, we have a high illness rate, we have the opioid issues. There is a lot at play and these guys are the ones who go,” she said.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs added “if you look at our population about 18 percent is over 65.”

He said many of those over 65 have disabilities.

“That’s just the reality of what we have to deal with,” he said. “When you are older there are services that are required.

“I think we are going to see this more often,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper in reference to the multiple calls for service at one time.

“The traffic is getting worse and it’s not even season yet.”

Commissioner Brad Goodbread said the opioid epidemic is a medical problem nationwide.

Every three days we lose as many people as we lost on Sept. 11, he said. “We need to do everything we can to address that.”

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