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Crescent ambulance service to shut down

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CRESCENT, Okla. -- The town of Crescent is being forced to suspend their ambulance service.

First responders could come from nearby Guthrie, located 15 miles away, with an approximate 18-minute drive time.

It's a hard decision that has already been made; the ambulance service in Crescent has their hands tied.

"We're kind of up against the wall, state statute says we have to maintain a certain number of EMTs to cover 24 hrs and, right now, we can't do it," Crai Lotz, President of the Ambulance Board of Crescent, said.

Crescent, Oklahoma: population just barely 1,500.

Many people in town wear multiple hats; Lotz manages Don's Drug and serves as president of the ambulance board.

"We've done everything we can we know to do to try to get enough ambulance, EMT drivers."

The problem leads back to money.

"We pay minimum wage and that's all we can afford to pay, so right now that's where we are. We'd had one, two, three, four people resign that were full time volunteers, so that leaves us with two EMTs in town that were licensed, and both of them have full time jobs," Lotz says.

Without the proper staffing, they must stop service.

"The ambulance right now will be coming from Guthrie," Lotz said.

According to EMSA reports, in August of this year, the average response time was about 10 minutes and six seconds, similar to the 10-minute average response time in Crescent. But according to the board president, if the services move to Guthrie, it will be about 20 minutes before and ambulance can get to someone in need of help.

"Twenty minutes can be life or death, it really can," Patti Orcutt, a Crescent resident, said.

"I've had to use their service at least three times, no doubt they've helped keep me alive," Bill Bennett, Orcutt's father, said.

They've given a chance for the woman to still enjoy dinner with her dad.

"I still think there's got to be a way to pull together and make a difference," Orcutt said.

"It's really a sad situation, but at this point, this is all we can do. By state law, we can't maintain an ambulance," Lotz says.

There is a special meeting planned for Friday evening to discuss the specifics on contracts with the City of Guthrie.