By Shawn Nowlin
The Salem Fire-EMS Department has plenty of reasons to be proud of themselves. Comprised of paramedics, first responders and other personnel, the department has been on a roll lately. On April 12, Senior Firefighter Blake Duncan received a Certificate of Appreciation as well as a gift from the City of Salem for ten years of service. On April 5, Senior Paramedic Betty McBride was officially recognized as “Badge 1” – a time honored tradition within the department that is given to the most senior firefighter.
Earlier this month, the entire Salem Fire-EMS Department were honored by the American Red Cross during an event titled “Help Can’t Wait-A Celebration of Heroes.” Held virtually on April 19, the department were recognized primarily for saving the life of a 55-year-old man who was found unresponsive at Longwood Park on a pickleball court. It took eight minutes, but the firefighters were able to get the man’s pulse back. A selfless bystander assisted by providing CPR.
There are approximately 95 counties throughout Virginia, and most of them have a fire department. A recent report found that a plurality of them remain underfunded. The federal and state grants that the Salem Fire-EMS Department received over the years went to purchasing protective clothing and life-saving equipment, among other things.
Known for their engaging personalities, members of the department have cultivated relationships with countless individuals throughout the community. Last September, the Salem Fire & EMS Department helped contain a flame at Michael Grant’s house. He says not a week goes by that he doesn’t think about their heroics.
“My wife Dyan and I were at our grandson’s flag football practice. Dyan asked our oldest son, Michael, to warm up the grease because when we came home, we were going to cook some burgers and fries. What he did was turn it on high and walked away from it,” he said. “Roughly 30 minutes later, our youngest son happened to see smoke coming from his room. When he stepped in the hallway, he noticed it was pretty bad. We are so thankful there were no casualties. I am forever grateful for what the first responders did.”