Grade 8 students had the opportunity to participate in an exciting relay race in May. The Ootischenia Fire Department showed them how to connect and use a fire hose and two teams raced each other to see who could knock over an orange traffic cone first. (Chelsea Novak/Castlegar News File)

Grade 8 students had the opportunity to participate in an exciting relay race in May. The Ootischenia Fire Department showed them how to connect and use a fire hose and two teams raced each other to see who could knock over an orange traffic cone first. (Chelsea Novak/Castlegar News File)

Ootischenia Fire Department achieves first responder status

On July 1, the Ootischenia Volunteer Fire Department was designated with first-responder status.

On July 1, the Ootischenia Volunteer Fire Department was designated with first-responder status.

This means that the department can now provide pre-ambulance arrival care to residences within their call area.

During times when the ambulance may already be on another call, or is not close to the community the department will now be dispatched to the call.

“We will go to the residence and start first aid and try to stabilize the patient until the ambulance arrives,” explained Ootischenia fire chief George Hamm.

“It is something we have always wanted to do, but just didn’t have enough membership to do it, because we will have to have someone on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week with this,” added Hamm.

The service will likely more than double the department’s annual call volume. They currently go out on between 60 and 80 fire department related calls a year. The estimate for the new first responder calls is an additional 75 per year. The department has also been doing lift-assist calls for the ambulance service for some time.

“The guys and girls have all been working super hard,” said Hamm of the department’s firefighters. “We’ve been cramming to get our certification for Firefighter Level 1 and 2 and also getting this first responder program up and running. It’s been a very busy year for us.”

The Robson Volunteer Fire Department has helped with providing some of the training for the new designation.

The Ootischenia department usually has practices on Monday nights, but those getting the first responder training have also had to practice on Tuesday nights as well. This will continue for the first few months, and then will go to every other week.

Hamm has his sights set on extrication training for next year.

“We deal a lot with vehicle accidents,” said Hamm.

There are currently 22 firefighters at the department and new volunteers are always needed, if you are interested, call Hamm at 250-304-8582.

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