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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

THE SLAB HAS already been poured in the rear of the North Branch firehouse, enabling a medical helicopter to land there when needed. More volunteer work is planned to complete the project.

Helipad Planned in North Branch

By Jeanne Sager
NORTH BRANCH — July 17, 2007 — One less worry.
That’s what every emergency responder needs and almost never gets.
In North Branch, a square white swath of concrete may do just that.
The 35 foot by 35 foot pad represents a clear landing site for a medical helicopter in case of an emergency in the rural community.
Nestled in the middle of hills and forests, North Branch is difficult area to navigate for chopper pilots.
A devastating accident right outside the hamlet in the spring of 2004 brought that home to North Branch firefighters, said the department’s treasurer, Bob Theadore.
The two-car crash claimed the life of firemen Tom Schick and sent rescue workers scrambling to find a clear landing spot for the MedEvac that was to take Schick’s seriously injured son, J.T., to the hospital.
“We thought back then, wouldn’t it be nice for a helicopter to come in to a place where he knows the coordinates, where it’s lit up and clear?” Theadore explained.
A $10,000 grant secured by State Senator John Bonacic helped bring the ideas on the drawing board to reality.
Contractor CPC Construction of Milanville, Pa. was hired to clear and grade the rear of the firehouse parking lot, pouring a slab in the center.
Theadore said the contractor donated a portion of his time, and volunteers have been helping to clear out the area and install the lighting.
They’ll need to put down calcium chloride, remove more of the parking lot gravel (to reduce the amount of debris a helicopter’s blades would send flying) and cut some more trees – and volunteer labor is always appreciated.
They hope to expand the department’s Sullivan Renaissance project to the back of the site to beautify the area.
But the pad itself is usable if an emergency arose.
Catskill Regional Medical Center and Guthrie Sayre have both been notified of its exact coordinates to simplify landing, Theadore said.
As a fireman, he knows how important time can be in an emergency, and this helipad can shave valuable minutes.
“It’s a central place, everybody knows where it is, it will always be plowed, always be lit,” he said, listing the advantages. “It’s not like looking for a spot out in the hayfield.”

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