Fire department thanks citizen for help in snowstorm

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A man and his plow helped Hillsville firefighters and rescue workers reach patient through 2 feet of snow.

By Staff Reports

HILLSVILLE — When emergency responders fought knee-deep snow to reach a cardiac patient in Hillsville during last month’s winter storm, a citizen not only saved the day for paramedics and firefighters, but also might have saved the patient’s life.
Mike Musser, assistant chief of the Hillsville Fire Department, wrote to The Gazette last week to recognize Orba Semones for his assistance on the call.
He said firefighters “had an occasion to witness something quite extraordinary” in Semones’ kindness.
Firefighters were called to assist Carroll Fire & Rescue on a cardiac call off of Showcase Lane. The residence was about a quarter-mile off the state-maintained portion of the road, and thus was still snow-covered from the recent 20-plus inches.
The first medics on scene, (Kenneth Carrico and Melanie Boyer) left their ambulance at the end of the road and set out on foot through the near knee-deep snow down a steep grade, then back up another steep grade to reach the residence and the patient.
Musser said the medics quickly realized they would not be able to get the ambulance anywhere near the residence to load the patient, and called the Hillsville Fire Department to bring out our all-terrain vehicle that is equipped with a device to transport a patient on the rear of the ATV.
“We also quickly realized that our ATV would have difficulty getting through the deep snow, but responded nonetheless with equipment and seven personnel,” Musser said.
As they neared the residence, the firefighters found Orba Semones, who was working on his large farm tractor in his driveway.
“We stopped and asked Mr. Semones if he could assist us with his tractor so that we could get to the patient and get them back out again,” Musser said. “Without hesitation, Mr. Semones responded, ‘Sure, I will be right behind you!’”
When firefighters arrived at the end of the paved portion of the road, Semones “swung open the door of his tractor cab and told us to follow him with the ambulance that had been parked,” Musser said.
“He said, ‘if you get stuck, I will hook to you and pull you to the house.’”
Musser said what happened next was not only amazing, but also quite heart-warming.
“One of the firemen got in the ambulance and started down the steep road, following Mr. Semones as he plunged through the deep snow and incidental deeper drifts that had formed.
“As the ambulance started making its way up the next hill, as feared, the ambulance became stuck in the snow.  Mr. Semones backed his Goliath of a tractor back down the hill, connected a chain to the ambulance and pulled it right up to the front of the residence.”
But, the story doesn’t end here, Musser said.
 “Mr. Semones then took the front loader on his tractor and cleared a pathway for the emergency personnel to carry the patient on the gurney from the residence to the awaiting ambulance.”
After the patient was loaded, Semones then led the ambulance back out the snow-covered roadway, and hooked to it once again and pulled it to the paved roadway.  
Once the firefighters got back to the main road, Musser said they opened Semones’ tractor cab door, thanked him for his help and told him they couldn’t have done that without him.
“Mr. Semones gave us a kind smile and replied, ‘Oh, I didn’t do nothing, I was glad to do it.’”
Musser said Semones’ help demonstrates how much volunteer agencies need the public’s help.
“The emergency responders in this community take great pride in the service we provide, the amount of training we undergo and the equipment that he have to provide those services,” Musser wrote in a letter to The Gazette, publicly thanking Semones.
“What is often overlooked is the fact that, despite some of the best equipment around, the most highly trained personnel and dedicated providers, we MUST rely on the support of the citizens that we serve.
“The Godly assistance that Mr. Semones gave us was priceless and humbling.  He didn’t hesitate to help his fellow man when asked, and without his help and the use of his tractor, we would have had to carry the patient over a quarter-mile on a stretcher through the frigid temperatures and steep, snow-covered terrain.”
Musser said that extended amount of time and exposure to the elements could have proven to be life-threatening to the patient.
“To Mr. Semones we say ‘Thank you’ and ‘God bless you.’ You are a local hero in the eyes of Hillsville Fire Department.”