KALISPELL - With stretches of winding highways and rugged landscape with back-country dangers, Northwest Montana's recreation-rich area can bring challenges to anyone. Seconds can be the difference between life and death, especially for those depending on Emergency Medical Service responders.
"They're everyday-people who have stepped up to fill a gap to help each other," said Dick Sines.
Sines knows the value of these dedicated, hardworking men and women who are on the front lines of saving lives, answering calls day or night. He serves the citizens of the Flathead Valley as their Emergency Medical Services Manager.
"These people who are willing to take the time out of their days and their nights to get up in the middle of the night and respond to an automobile crash, somebodies baby chocking, somebody having a stroke."
But in recent years Sines has faced a growing frustration felt by many others in his role in cities across the nation.
"The lion's share of Emergency Medical Service providers in Flathead County are volunteers. We have some paid staff but the majority of them are volunteers."
Sines says finding people to fill those shoes is a challenge.
"Volunteerism is on a decline all across America."
And with the area's deadly highways and rural and rugged landscape, dedicated and well-trained EMS responders are more critical than ever before.
"It's not only admirable, but it's something that you just don't see anywhere else."
Sines also serves as a volunteer with Two-Bear Air Rescue in conjunction with air ambulances, helping coordinate the transfer of rescue victims for transport to local hospitals.