MORCOM TWP- After decades of serving the first response medical needs of a nine-township rural response area covering portions of St. Louis, Itasca, and Koochiching counties, the Northeast Itasca …
MORCOM TWP- After decades of serving the first response medical needs of a nine-township rural response area covering portions of St. Louis, Itasca, and Koochiching counties, the Northeast Itasca County Rescue Squad and Bearville First Responders are close to having a place to call home.
This dedicated group of volunteers, with current membership of eight EMTs and EMRs, got its start back in the mid-1980s, according to Dustin Nelson, equipment and training officer for the squad. Northeast Itasca County Rescue Squad organized as a nonprofit under Minnesota law and gained its status as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2018. But the Northeast Itasca County Rescue Squad and Bearville First Responders aren’t actually separate groups, they’re one and the same, Nelson said.
“Whenever we get paged from St. Louis County, that’s Bearville First Responders,” he said.
Up until now, squad members have always responded from their homes, tossing their bags of equipment into their personal vehicles to head out on calls.
“We kind of set some long-term goals and one was to have a building,” Nelson said. “And then within a year or two, all of a sudden that long-term goal turned into a short-term goal when property became available, and we started working with the township and the county and that brings us to where we’re at today.”
The property is about a two-and-a-half-acre piece of land at the intersection of Hwy. 22 and Itasca Rd.
St. Louis County conveyed the property to Morcom Township for the purpose of public safety, and in turn the township leased the property to the rescue group for $25 for five years with an automatic renewal option. A required conditional use permit for the new 2,400-square foot emergency response building is in process, and Nelson said volunteers have already started working on the site.
“We’re hoping to build this building here in the next month or so to get it shelled in.”
The project got a major financial boost with a $65,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation, and the rescue squad has raised additional money through various fundraisers throughout the year, such as a take-out soup meal happening this Saturday. But the project could still use some additional financial and physical help, Nelson said.
“We’re still looking for some additional funds, donations to get it to 100 percent completion,” Nelson said. “We’re probably going to rely a lot on volunteers helping out as far as doing the construction, versus turning it over to a general contractor. We definitely need community support. We need folks to come alongside us whether it be financially or just physical labor to help out where they can.”
The floorplan includes two main components. The first is a meeting/training room that can also be used for some equipment storage. The second is a large garage that will accommodate another of the squad’s long-term goals: obtaining a used ambulance to deploy for calls. Nelson explained that an ambulance would allow responders to have additional equipment with them than they can’t currently take in their cars that would often be useful in a first response situation.
“Right now when I respond on a call I’ve got three bags that I grab, and that doesn’t really include everything that we could have,” Nelson said.
Having a used ambulance would allow the squad to carry things like backboards, suction equipment, a LUCAS (chest compression) device, and more with them. The ambulance would not be used for patient transport, Nelson said, only to support the activities of first responders while they are waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
“It’s definitely something we’d like to achieve here in the near future,” Nelson said.
The rescue squad averages about 25 calls a year, and the calls lean more toward severe situations in which timely response from trained first responders can make a difference, Nelson said. The squad works with five ambulance services that could potentially respond in their service area, including Cook, Orr, Bigfork, Nashwauk, and Chisholm.
“It’s probably 25-30 minutes before we see an ambulance out here,” Nelson said.
For more information or to offer assistance, contact Dustin Nelson by calling 218-969-9217 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.