PINEDALE – Probably they’ve been thanked by individual citizens before.
But Friday, for the second year in a row, emergency personnel got a big, public “Thank you” from the people they serve. The greater Pinedale and Sublette County area came together for what’s coming to be called First Responders Appreciation Day. And while last year’s event drew about 350 people specifically to honor the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office personnel, this year’s event reached out to eight different agencies who provide services to a county nearly as large as the state of Connecticut.
The event honored the American Red Cross, Tip Top Search and Rescue, the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, Sublette County Unified Fire, Sublette County Emergency Management, the Sublette County Rural Health Care District, Sublette County EMS, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Pinedale Town Council member Matt Murdock, who helped orchestrate the event, said it’s a way for Pinedale and Sublette County to say publicly how they value the work that emergency responders do.
“It’s extremely important,” Murdock said. “These guys are on the front line.”
Justin Hays, a deputy for the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office said emergency response agencies can get stretched thin in an area of 5,000 square miles. There are no town police departments in the county, so the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office provides all the law enforcement.
Similarly, EMTs from Sublette County provide services to the entire county; so does Sublette County Unified Fire.
Sublette’s land area of roughly 5,000 square miles makes it nearly as large as Connecticut’s 5,500 square miles, pointed out Bill Kappenman of the Sublette County Rural Health Care District.
There’s even more real estate to cover for the Wyoming Highway Patrol, whose troopers in the area normally patrol Sublette County and northern Sweetwater County – with special assignments thrown in.
“Just under 6,000 square miles is our normal area, but we get shipped up to Jackson or down to Rock Springs weekly, I would say,” said Trooper Brandon Deckert. “We kind of have to roll with soft boundaries.”
But for those rooted in Sublette County, the job has its payback moments.
Shondel Bennett, an EMT, said working as a first responder, in whatever field, is a way to give back to the community – something that occurs to her almost every time she goes out on a call.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” she said. “You always wonder if you’re going to go out on somebody you know. And usually you do.”
And no matter which agency they work for, first responders share a common task, as Sublette County Sheriff K.C. Lehr noted when members of the different agencies spoke to the crowd.
“We are all here for the same purpose, and that is to protect and serve the citizens of Sublette County,” Lehr said.