The business of saving lives often involves a race against time.
And beginning this summer, critically ill and injured patients in Lane County will be able to depend on quick responses from emergency medical helicopters stationed around the clock in Eugene.
Springfield officials -- who run the local FireMed ambulance membership program -- have signed an agreement with Life Flight Network of Aurora to begin offering emergency air transport from the Eugene Airport in June.
"This is big news for us," Springfield Fire Chief Dennis Murphy said. "It's one of the most significant improvements in emergency transport and service in Lane County's history."
FireMed previously contracted with REACH Air Medical of Santa Rosa, Calif., for local emergency air service.
The main drawback of that arrangement is that REACH's closest helicopters take off from Corvallis.
Officials say once Life Flight touches down in Eugene, emergency air transport response times should be cut by about 15 minutes for Eugene, Springfield and outlying areas.
Life Flight helicopters are staffed by nurses and paramedics. They transport patients from emergency scenes to hospitals, or from one hospital to another.
Under the arrangement finalized this week, Life Flight will pay FireMed $99,900 for advertising and marketing the emergency air transport program.
Members of FireMed Plus, an insurance-like subscription program, pay $84 annually for ground and air ambulance service. People without FireMed typically pay far more for emergency air transport, Murphy said.
Local FireMed revenue supports emergency services offered by Eugene Springfield and Lane Rural fire departments.
Life Flight Network is a nonprofit agency owned and operated by Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center, Oregon Health Sciences University and Providence Health System.Life Flight emergency air ambulances have successfully transported 31,000 patients to hospitals since the service launched in Portland 30 years ago, according to an agency news release.