30-vehicle procession for a salute to the workers at IRMC

The military may have its 21-gun salute, but the local fire service had an impromptu 30-vehicle procession for a salute to the workers at Indiana Regional Medical Center on Sunday evening. Firefighters, police and paramedics circled the hospital with lights flashing and sirens blaring to signal appreciation for the perilous but life-saving work done at IRMC during the coronavirus outbreak.

The wail of sirens pierced the calm early Sunday evening air of the Indiana area and although emergency vehicles by the dozens converged on the area, no real emergency had commanded their response.

The time just seemed right: Easter celebrations tailed off and family dinner gatherings were breaking up, as Indiana fire officials explained it.

It was time for an encouraging salute to the staff at Indiana Regional Medical Center, and an expression of gratitude for more than just the physicians and nurses working to save patients’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This was for the entire staff, from the CEO on down to the janitors. They all play a part,” said John Steigert, captain of the Indiana Fire Association’s Company 3. “We wanted to make sure they all got recognized.

“We recognize the importance of all essential services but this was our opportunity with IRMC.”

Following a flurry of text messages, a 6 p.m. idea to run a few Indiana firetrucks with flashing lights past the IRMC emergency entrance turned into a 7 p.m. network response of an estimated 30 fire apparatus, ambulances and police cars from surrounding communities driving laps around the hospital, he said.

“Chief Scott Schuller started to call our mutual aid (fire departments), EMS and police. A great decision,” Steigert said. Time didn’t permit the department to invite every one of the 26 fire companies serving the county, but the nearest ones that often share duty calls with Indiana — the Homer City, Creekside, Coral-Graceton, Marion Center, Black Lick, Cherryhill Township and Blairsville fire companies — fell in procession with Citizens’ Ambulance Service units, state police troopers, Indiana Borough and Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus police.

The firefighters had seen similar tributes in other cities through social media and thought Indiana shouldn’t be an exception.

“To get that number of people to respond that quickly was impressive,” Steigert said. “It was quick notice, a spur of the moment decision. And because it was Easter Sunday, it was a good time with most of our volunteers off work. It worked out well.”