2.5% of county's residents serve as emergency medical technicians.If service to mankind is the price one pays for the space he or she occupies on Mother Earth, Garfield County is well-deserving of its sprawling and extensive acreage of landscape, where communities are few and far between.

And much of that credit goes to 2.5 percent of the rural county's residents who serve as volunteer emergency medical technicians. "That's a phenomenal figure that would be like 20,000 on the same percentage basis in Salt Lake (County)," said Robert Mc-Cul-lough, physician assistant who helps train the EMTs.In Salt Lake City alone, the comparative percentage figure would be about 4,000 emergency medical technicians.

But residents in rural Utah have the availability of fewer trained medical professionals than the urban areas, so volunteer medical personnel play a vital role in the health program.

Their service doesn't go unheralded, as evidenced by the recent retirement of 10 technicians in Garfield County who compiled a combined 92 years of service. Their fellow workers presented them with plaques and silver-blue "911" afghans, while the county and Panguitch city recognized them with plaques, turkeys and special honors.

"Most people visualize them as young people like those on television shows, but their ages are higher in the rural areas," McCullough said. "Many of our EMTs are 40 to 45 years old and some serve until they are about 65."

He said it is hoped the gap will be filled with new EMTs through a basic training course to begin Jan. 6. That would put the Garfield County EMT squad back up to about 60, the number needed to serve an area with a population of only about 4,000 people.

McCullough sometimes refers to them as "reluctant heroes," adding, "They are citizens who feel they ought to do something to help their communities, are willing to do it but who would just as soon that someone else had the responsibility."

The service of those who retired extends from four to 14 years. During their tenures, each has been cited with Garfield County's "EMT of the Year" honors. They are Jean Julander, Betty Frandsen, Peg Bagnell, Dorothy Barney, Bob Smith, Sheri Miller, Rick Oldham, Leslie McEwen, Caroline Matthew and Gary Ownes.

Several county residents are also involved in the training process. Tammy Barton is EMT training officer, meeting with personnel in each area of the county on a monthly basis to provide refresher training.

Becky Roberts and McCullough provide some of the more technical medical training. Kim Soper, Stan Stowe, Sandra Francisco and Ron and Susan Harris are also involved with training personnel in the program.

Ambulances are located and operated by EMTs over a wide geographical expanse in Garfield County, stationed in Escalante, Cannonville, Hatch, Panguitch, Antimony and the Bryce Canyon area. Clinics are in Cannonville and Escalante, as well as Circleville in neighboring Piute County.