Morrow County undersheriff lends a hand for D.C. Fourth of July

<p>Tourists stand underneath a sprinkler set up for visitors to the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, where temperatures were in the 90s, Monday, July 2, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)</p>

Morrow County Undersheriff Steve Myren is helping to ensure a safe Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.

Myren has worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more than a decade, he said, helping direct medical services in emergencies and planned events, such as the capital’s big Fourth celebration.

“My first assignment was at Ground Zero,” he said, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001.

He also has worked on disaster medical assistant teams in the South following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This week he has oversight of emergency workers’ tactical operations throughout the Capitol Mall and surrounding area. Those doctors, nurses and paramedics will provide the first response to the 500,000 people the National Parks Service expects in the mall Wednesday and the 250,000 on the other side of the Potomac River.

Typically, emergency staff treat scrapes, cuts and bruises, he said. Given the 100-degree weather and high humidly, he said, they also anticipate treating cases of dehydration. At these big events, he said, more serious emergencies, including heart attacks, are common.

The National Parks Service manages the Fourth of July celebration in the District of Columbia, but the demands of a huge crowd means the parks service turns to help from other agencies. Myren said he’s been there since Sunday, preparing for the influx of people that begins Wednesday morning.

Myren said he couldn’t do any of the Health and Human Services work without the support of the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Ken Matlack said that because he and Myren are working supervisors, the sheriff can help fill in to cover Myren’s absence.

Myren expects to return home Thursday, but in disaster areas the assignment usually is two weeks long, sometimes longer. He usually takes vacation or other leave, Matlack said, so the county costs are minimal.

Myren has gone without county pay while at a diaster; Matlack said the federal pay is better than the county pay.

The sheriff said Myren is regularly in demand, and over the past decade he has worked up to operations manager, relaying orders from chiefs and making sure all on the front lines are doing what they should.

Myren won’t have a firsthand view of one of the largest fireworks show in the country. Rather, he said he’ll be five miles away, viewing the scene from monitors and talking to staff on the radio.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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