Yampa After responding to train accidents, car crashes, bus crashes and an untold number of ambulance runs during 36 years of service, longtime Yampa resident Bobbie Vetter is hanging up the stethoscope for good.
Vetter moved to Yampa in 1968 and began getting her emergency medical training in 1973, soon becoming part of the ambulance crew and then part of the group's leadership.
Vetter, an emergency medical technician, CPR instructor, CPR instructor trainer and active ambulance crew member, has lived and worked in Yampa since before the 911 emergency system was established.
"I don't know what the other communities did, but Yampa got a separate phone number, and it was a fire line," Vetter said. "There were five to six families that had one of those phones in their house, and they were responsible for being home and being able to answer that phone."
One of the most memorable, though tragic, experiences in her career, Vetter said, was a bus wreck in 1981. Early on a bright August morning, a worker's bus crashed about a mile south of Yampa on Colorado Highway 131 when the driver apparently fell asleep.
Vetter said there were about 40 people on the bus. Of those, 17 were admitted to the hospital, including three or four people sent to Denver. One infant died in the crash.
"We had about every ambulance in the county here," she said. "It was a long day."
Vetter also has worked with an assortment of colleges that were offering training in South Routt County, including Colorado Northwestern Community College, where she taught classes with Bryan Rickman, chief of the West Routt Fire Protection District.
Rickman noted Vetter's dedication to improving emergency medical services in Routt County, saying she "wore out several Subarus" traveling to state conferences and meetings where priorities and budgets for EMS programs often were determined.
"The way I always viewed her is she always looked out for the little guy because she came from a small community," he said. "She always put up a heck of a fight for the small agency. She understood that, that was her life, and that's what she did."
Rickman said Vetter also was an important part of several agency creations.
"She was very involved with the creation of the regional EMS and trauma council, which we have now," he said.
Vetter worked with agencies in Oak Creek, Yampa and across the state, sometimes inspiring others to take up EMS work.
Longtime Yampa resident Christie de Ganahl said that when she was in a truck that was struck by a train in 1978, Vetter was one of the responders who plucked her out of the wreckage.
In 2000, de Ganahl started taking EMT classes, with Vetter as her mentor.
"Bobbie was basically the head of the ambulance at that point, and she was a great mentor," de Ganahl said. "I was kind of a timid EMT, and she brought me right along."
Vetter's EMT certification expired in June, she said, leading her to take a full retirement.
"I knew the only way I could probably step away was to no longer be certified," she said.
She said she plans to travel and spend time with her grandchildren and children but that she still will miss the ambulance service.
"I'm going to miss feeling like I'm serving my community," Vetter said. "I'm going to miss the camaraderie of the teamwork, of the monthly training, and that feeling of belonging to a group whose sole purpose is to help people."