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Volunteers cross-train For Fire & Ambulance

by Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
May 16, 1996

For many years the Seeley Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Quick Response Unit were separate organizations with separate volunteer crews. Their purpose was to respond to emergencies or fires.

Today, the crews are being cross-trained, and besides responding to emergencies, the departments are planning ahead for many situations, says Fire Chief Jeff Lien.

Ten firefighters just took a 44-hour First Responder course and most of them will soon become members of the QRU, according to Lien. Out of the 22 members on the fire department, 15 members are now cross-trained, he said.

Presently out of the 13 QRU members, three are cross-trained. The QRU has one paramedic, 7 EMTs and 5 First Responder As, according to EMT Cindy Lewis. About eight more firefighters will join the QRU as First Responders.

In November, a new 1-ton rescue vehicle was purchased. The truck responds to both medical and fire calls. This vehicle was purchased to provide assistance to the ambulance and to reach fires that the larger fire trucks cannot reach.

It is a 4-wheel drive Ford equipped for any medical emergency with the exception of transporting patients. It is equipped with trauma kits, water rescue equipment, wildland fire fighting gear with foam capabilities and emergency lighting, according to Lien.

Responding in the rescue vehicle will save a tremendous amount of wear and tear on Engine No. 1 which is the largest truck, he said. It was purchased two years ago. The crew on the rescue vehicle is able to aid medical personnel and in most vehicle accidents, they take over all traffic control.

"The crews have been great to work with," said recently retired Sheriff's Deputy Lloyd Hallgren. "They take control of the traffic, and we are able to do our job without having to worry about it."

The rescue vehicle is usually the first to leave the department, and the crew locates and secures the scene, takes over traffic control and aides in landing the helicopter. The department is also expanding its plans for the safety of the Seeley area, according to Lien.

"We will have two Department of Natural Resource and Conservation wildland engines and crews stationed full time at the fire hall this fire season," he said. "They will be available for all wildland fires and issuing burning permits."

Also, Missoula Rural Fire and Missoula City Fire have contacted Lien to request that Seeley Lake members train as part of a specialized team to respond with Missoula's Hazardous Material crews for decontamination and medical surveylance.

According to Lien, this specialized team would respond in the immediate area as well as anywhere else in the state with a hazardous waste emergency.

Another project the Fire Department is looking into is dry fire-hydrant systems in the fire district. Dry fire-hydrants can be underground storage tanks, rivers, lakes or streams plumbed with a hydrant and a turn around with quick and easy access for the fire engines.

Dry fire-hydrants not only provide better fire protection, in some cases they could improve the fire insurance rating in an area, which could mean lower premiums. "We are looking for places and funding in order to install these hydrants," said Assistant Fire Chief Jim White.

Possible locations for dry fire-hydrants are in the Placid Lake area, the north end of Lake Inez, Big Sky Lake, Double Arrow Ranch or any place where there is not a district water supply, he said. Funding of the individual projects could be done by the landowners getting together and paying for a dry fire-hydrant in their area.

The department is not sure of the exact cost, but White said that it is not an extremely expensive project. If you are interested in a dry fire-hydrant call the department at 677-2400.

Other projects include: working with the Missoula County Planning Office on fire protection for all new subdivisions and new businesses; a local disaster plan; flood plans and sand bags; and possibly installing an emergency dispatch center which could be used if we lost communication with Missoula, Lien said.

"We are investigating a lot of projects and safety issues," Lien said. "And, we're always looking for volunteers. We can use anyone from cadets to senior citizens." And since we're on the topic of fires, you will need a burning permit for any burning after May 1st. Burning permits are available through either the Forest Service, 677-2233, or the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, 244-5857. The location of the burn will dictate which department needs to issue the permit. While burning:

*Do not burn garbage or trash. If you do so you will be cited by the Missoula County Sheriff's Department. If you are reporting someone who is burning trash, please have an exact location to report.

*Do not burn near any structures, trees or brush.

*Do not leave fire unattended. You will be cited for doing so.

*Burn in the mornings or evenings because winds are more prominent in the afternoons.

*Do not burn if it is windy or conditions are dangerous.

*Do not use combustible liquids to start your fire.

*Clear grass away from the burning site.

*Have plenty of help and fire-fighting equipment to prevent the fire from getting out of control.

*Remember that the permit does not relieve you from liability of fire suppression costs and damages resulting from an escaped and/or uncontrolled fire.