LCRA, Bandera Electric Co-op award $24,609 grant to Utopia Volunteer EMS

New hydraulic stretcher will improve patient care, protect emergency responders from injuries

Nov. 14, 2022

Representatives from LCRA and Bandera Electric Cooperative award a $24,609 grant to Utopia Volunteer EMS for a new hydraulic stretcher system. The grant is part of LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program. Pictured, from left to right, are: Debbie Goodner, EMS secretary; Julie Casburn, EMS vice president and EMT; Patrick Killough, EMT; Rhonda Garofano, EMT director; Michael L. “Mike” Allen, LCRA Board member; Doug Carlyle, EMS president; Ernest Samples, EMT; Carol Freeman, LCRA Board member; Kati Fitzpatrick, BEC communications specialist; and Kate Ramzinski, LCRA Regional Affairs representative.
UVALDE COUNTY, Texas – Thanks to a $24,609 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and Bandera Electric Cooperative, Utopia Volunteer Emergency Medical Services will purchase a new hydraulic-powered ambulance stretcher and load system.

The Community Development Partnership Program grant, along with $40,083 in matching funds from Utopia Volunteer EMS, will allow the department to finish equipping each of its three ambulances with up-to-date cots and loading systems that are aided by hydraulics to assist with lifting and transport. A new stretcher also will be installed in a new ambulance the department is purchasing.

The stretcher and load system helps provide stability for patients during transport and helps protect first responders from injuries while lifting and moving patients. The hydraulic mechanisms can lift up to 700 pounds.

“One of the largest causes of personnel injuries is back injuries,” EMS President Doug Carlyle said. “It’s been an issue for decades. The new hydraulic-powered stretcher will place the burden of lifting the patient from the ground and moving them to the ambulance on the hydraulic mechanisms of the unit, instead of on the medic.”

First responders will no longer have to risk injuries or request lift assistance from other responders, which can extend the time it takes to get patients to an ambulance and on the way to a hospital.

“The less strain on the back of a medic, the more time they can work to their fullest capability and continue to provide pre-hospital emergency care,” Carlyle said.

Utopia Volunteer EMS serves a 457-square-mile area that includes parts of Uvalde, Bandera, Medina and Real counties, as well as Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. Half of the department’s patients are visitors to the area.

“Because we are the only 9-1-1 ground transport provider in such a remote region, it is critical to offer fast-responding, highly capable, compassionate medical personnel and care to any type of incident,” Carlyle said. “We are excited to make our work environment safer and make the atmosphere better for patients in pre-hospital care, while remaining leaders in our demanding field.”

The community grant is one of 46 grants awarded recently through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer fire departments, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale electric, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves.

Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in January. More information is available at

About LCRA
The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; providing a clean, reliable water supply; and offering outdoor adventures at more than 40 parks along the Colorado River from the Texas Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. LCRA and its employees are committed to fulfilling our mission to enhance the quality of life of the Texans we serve through water stewardship, energy and community service. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934 and receives no state appropriations. For more information, visit

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