Cross-training proves fruitful for Lee Co. emergency workers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cross-training proves fruitful for Lee Co. emergency workers

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LEE CO., GA (WALB) -  After merging EMS and fire services in Lee County, 27 paramedics have passed a state firefighting exam.

The achievement is the product of hours of classroom and field training.

Brent Beasley and Jeremy Varnadoe are trained paramedics in Lee County, but they are now firefighters as well.

"It's been a learning experience," said Varnadoe. "I was new to it. Of course we've been on fire standbys as paramedics, but we've never actively fought any."

Varnadoe and Beasley recently fought their first major fire on New York Road in Lee County.

"[We're] just trying to fall back on training and what we were supposed to do. And of course absolutely there was a sense of shock at first. But we gathered our senses and did what needed to be done," recalled Varnadoe.

County Commissioners merged EMS and fire services to offer better fire protection and the hope of lower insurance rates.

"I think the transition has gone really well," said Lee County Public Safety Director Bobby Watkins. "These guys train together and now they're out there performing together. They've accepted the fact that this is something that's going to be expected of them and they're really taking it and going with it."

"When you're able to put more people on scene, that helps out tremendously," said Beasley. "It's a lot safer on scene. The odds of saving more houses, saving more lives is greatly increased when you're able to increase that amount of safety."

For Beasley, who was a firefighter before he became a paramedic, this transition has been a dream come true.

"I never would of thought when I went to school that I could do both of them," he said. "So being able to do fire and EMS all in the same shift is, you can't beat that."

Beasley and Varnadoe both said helping the public through both roles benefits the entire community.

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