Posted 7/19/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Scott Strader, an EMT and firefighter with the Tioga Fire and Ambulance, went on his first call last week after nearly a year.
“I felt like I was finally home again,” he said.
He is glad to be doing what he loves, and he said he didn’t feel rusty.
During his time recovering, he kept up on his studies to keep his EMT training and licensing current.
Strader said he really hates to talk about it, but what took him away from saving lives was an accident that nearly cost him his own.
Strader, who is now 23, came to North Dakota with his aunt and uncle in 2009.
His uncle was laid off and posted his resume online looking for a job in North Dakota.
“Fifteen minutes later he got a call,” Strader recalls.
Strader was in high school at the time. He finished up his last couple years and graduated from Tioga High.
He went back to Florida to go to college, but the more he thought about more schooling, the less it made sense to him. He could go right to work in the oil fields with the skills he already had and make a really good living.
Plus he likes it here better than at home.
“It’s the type of people they have here. I never met a stranger,” he said.
So he came back to North Dakota and got to work.
Within a few years, he was working as a lease/operator-supervisor, managing 10 people and a billion dollars’ worth of equipment for Mitchell’s Oil Field Services.
He had a house, a second new vehicle, and a motorcycle. He worked two weeks on, two weeks off, doing long night shifts.
Strader began volunteering for the Tioga fire and ambulance department in Dec. 2012.
“It’s a love that once you find it, you’ll never lose it. Me helping the town makes me feel better about myself,” he said.
He said Mitchell’s was very supportive of his volunteering and would even pay him for his time he had to leave the site to go on an emergency call.
He spent his two weeks a month off work being a full-time volunteer.
He got hired on at Whiting and rode his motorcycle to Williston to take a pre-employment drug test, which he passed.
With a new job and a bright future, he headed down N.D. 1804 back to Tioga, a route he took because of its hills and turns.
The last thing he remembers is coming up on a curve in Lund’s Landing.
“I woke up in a hospital in Denver four months later,” he said.
He said one day he might suddenly remember how he ended up in a ditch that day, but currently he has no recollection of the accident.
He said he has ridden the big S-curve on N.D. 40 a number of times at regular speeds with no hands, so he doesn’t understand how he didn’t clear that curve on 1804.
“My life was going so great, and then everything just stopped,” he said.
Fortunately, the disability benefits from his job have sustained him financially. Plus a local charity that helps riders who’ve been injured, Fallen Riders, held a benefit for him last fall.
He spent a few months in Denver doing occupational, physical, and speech rehabilitation.
He came back to Tioga for the first time since the accident last November, but it was only for a few days.
“I came back to get my dog,” he said.
He said the police, fire, and ambulance volunteers escorted him into town to the fire hall to welcome his return.
With his dog in tow, he spent a few months back in Florida, working on his aunt’s farm and finishing some out-patient therapy.
The work was a way to ease back into working full time and he also studied for his EMT license.
But after a few months he’d had enough of Florida and wanted to return to his home in Tioga.
Strader said the work of an EMT or firefighter is not easy, but it’s extremely rewarding. He encourages everyone to sign up for training and give it a go.
Besides the sense of accomplishment that comes from helping people in the community, he said the camaraderie of the volunteer squad is also a big reward.
“It’s a big family. We do a good job of taking care of each other,” he said.