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Orange Rescue Squad answers complaints

Posted September 10, 2008

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— Volunteer rescue workers in Orange County are defending themselves against a scathing report on their competence presented to the county commissioners Tuesday.

The Orange County Rescue Squad, which had served the county for 40 years, was suspended from service on June 27 by the county Emergency Services Department after a preliminary report showed some practices that might have endangered squad members and others.

Dan Seip, squad president, responded to the charges that his team has behaved improperly and unprofessionally.

In a report to county commissioners Tuesday, Col. Frank Montes de Oca, director of Orange County Emergency Services, cited several instances of inappropriate responses by the volunteer squad.

In July 2007, the squad responded to a call of a person in the water, but did not bring boat. Seip said the dispatcher told them a boat wasn't necessary. "We weren't asked to bring a boat. When we go, we are bringing what we are asked to (bring)."

Another part of the report accuses the squad of operating a saw while standing in gasoline. The squad said that's just not true.

There are also claims in the report that squad members played with air tanks – shooting each other, leaving them depleted for emergency use. The squad said it was draining the tanks for testing.

"Those weren't set up on a truck ready to go," Seip said of the tanks. "It would have had absolutely no impact on our services."

A statement signed by seven Orange County fire chiefs supports the order for the squad to stand down and recommends that it be made permanent. "No consideration should be given to the reinstatement of the Orange County Rescue Squad," the statement concludes.

Squad members still want to help out in a supplemental role. "If in need, we are here and we would like to be used," Seip said.

"We are part of the community and we would like to continue to support the community."

Barry Jacobs, chairman of the county commission, said any review of the squad should be quick and fair. The squad doesn't need "to be left dangling," he said.

The Orange County commissioners hope to get a timeline for completion of the review at their meeting next Tuesday.

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