The Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service primary coverage area, the townships of Clayton and Orleans, consists of 154 square miles of mostly rural terrain with the villages of Clayton, LaFargeville, Depauville and Fisher’s Landing. The two towns border the St. Lawrence River, with the Canadian border running just a few miles offshore.
The area is known as the Thousand Islands region, which provides a strong identity in our name, and for the namesake bridge, from the U.S. mainland to Wellesley Island which carries almost 6,000 cars and trucks each day to and from the border crossing with Canada. The T.I. Bridge also provides the pattern for our TIERS logo.
There are several other smaller islands in our coverage area, which presents unique challenges in case of medical or fire emergencies. There are three fire boats in our area which can shuttle TIERS crews to and from an island call, depending on weather conditions.
Clayton Fire Department’s fireboat “Last Chance” (left), is our main fire boat partner. TIERS has a complement of emergency medical equipment on board, and responding Paramedics take ALS/BLS bags with them. The Fishers Landing and Alexandria Bay fire department also have fire boats. The United States Coast Guard, New York State Police, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Jefferson County STAR Team also have watercraft for emergency assistance.
In addition to residents on islands and pleasure boats, the busy St. Lawrence Seaway also carries massive ocean-going freighter ships. Working with the United States Coast Guard, TIERS must always be ready for the possibility of an emergency medical call on a ship, and for a possible HAZMAT incident in case of a chemical- or petroleum-carrying ship accident. Any contact with international vessels and crews may also mean some involvement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Coast Guard, Customs or Border Patrol officials. There is also a chance of a mass casualty incident on the water involving one of several large tour boats that operate on the river. TIERS and the Clayton Fire Department hosted a training session on board a large transport vessel that focused on ship construction, confined-space rescue and extrication from maritime vessels; click here for complete information.
Once the river starts to freeze, quick island access is by snowmobile, ATV or airboat only. Our coverage area suffers from severe winter weather conditions on land, too, which pose their own EMS challenges. TIERS has an ATV/Rescue Trailer combination, donated by The Rivergate Wheelers ATV Club of Clayton. Our Rescue Trailer carries EMS and extrication equipment for rescues in remote, difficult terrain, and can provide emergency patient transportation in severe weather or across river ice.
We also use our and ATV/ Rescue Trailer and the TIERS EMS Bike Team to provide coverage in crowded public events in River communities. While the actual population of our coverage area is just over 7,000, the number of people along the shore swells considerably during the summer tourism season. Heat and humidity added to boating, water and land sports, heavy road traffic and alcohol consumption bumps up TIERS’ number of calls in the summer months.
Clayton is the most cosmopolitan of the villages in our townships: traditional, charming and quiet –a great place for families and anything to do with summer and the water. Recent years have seen the arrival of military families from the U.S. Army’s Fort Drum – as has every area is Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties–as the Fort has grown with the arrival of new missions and thousands of new soldiers and their dependents.
TIERS also safeguards the students of the Thousand Islands Central School District’s Guardino Elementary, secondary and high schools, and the LaFargeville Central School campus.
LaFargeville is more of a “farm” town, with a large farm supply business. Its nearby access to Interstate 81 also makes it a business center with a large trucking company, an LP gas company, the Crowley Foods plant, and the busy Can-Am Speedway. These also bring special considerations for TIERS and for fire services with large tanks of flammables and toxic chemicals fairly close to each other, and the need for training in industrial and confined- space rescue, plus updates in HAZMAT.
The hamlets of Depauville and Fishers Landing are both small, rural communities–one on the river and one inland–with dedicated and active volunteer fire departments, the latter with a fire boat.
Farms account for a large portion of our coverage area, so TIERS hosts rescuers from all over the area for the Farm Medic seminar, dealing specifically with special farm considerations–machinery and farm equipment entrapments, chemicals and fertilizers used, silo rescue and other specific topics. We also rely on our Rescue Trailer for use in remote areas of farmland and thick woods.
A new and surprising addition to our area is the arrival of several Old Amish families who have relocated to the area from Ohio and Pennsylvania, drawn by high-quality farmland at low purchase prices. While they typically have little to do with outsiders, we do have an occasional need to serve their emergency medical needs. Click here to find out much more about their history and unique lifestyle .