Fort Smith firefighters redefine ‘weekend warrior’

Click on the slideshow above to view captions.Photos: Craig Gilbert.

Fort Smith residents can feel a little safer on the road thanks to an assist from Hay River.

The border town’s volunteer fire department conducted vehicle rescue training at the landfill all weekend and Chief Westly Steed was grateful Hay River Volunteer Fire Department Captain Terence Fischer made the drive over to help instruct.

That community’s fire department gets a lot more traffic and are responsible for a lot more road. Translation: a lot more vehicle extrications.

“He’s done way more practical extrications than we have,” Steed explained. “He’s seen more accidents and knows more about how to get people out so rather than our guys going off the book and looking at pictures, we have someone with hands-on experience. It takes the pressure off our more senior guys and lets them learn, too, instead.”

Ten Fort Smith volunteer firefighters took part in the training, which included practical scenarios involving rescue from vehicles both with and without cutting away the frame. They also did a practical and written exam for territory-level certification. Fischer let the crews run through the rescue scenarios, offering advice when a wrinkle crept up.

The younger firefighters with less experience with the tools, in turn, were allowed to find their own way with hydraulic cutters, power jigsaws and the jaws of life, and manual tools including glass cutters and every firefighter’s go-to tool, the powerful combination of a claw/fork, a blade/wedge/adze and tapered pick known as the Halligan.

“They’re learning how to use the tools and how to assess the situation and make the proper choices to remove the vehicle from the patient – not the other way around – so they aren’t injured any further,” Steed said. “Everyone in the department has to be able to do everything – SCBA, driving the pumper, servicing equipment and doing extrications. These guys gave up their Friday night and their weekend to train, so I hope the town and the community appreciates it. I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.”

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