UNITY — In an April 12 news release, the provincial government announced a program to help volunteer firefighters in the province. According to the Sask. government, this program is the first of its kind in Canada.
The province’s release stated they are investing $5.6 million to train volunteer firefighters to meet minimum standards for auto extrication and to help purchase tools and equipment they’ll need.
As has been outlined in newspaper stories over the years, fire departments in our communities have relied on donations of equipment and funds to help procure equipment necessary to perform the work they do.
“Advancements in vehicle technology have led to new materials and designs in modern automobiles,” Don Morgan, Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for SGI, said in a media release.
“Volunteer firefighters are often the first to respond to collisions on highways and rural roads, and it is essential that volunteer fire departments are kept up to date with evolving tool developments and adaptations around new car designs.”
The Saskatchewan Volunteer Firefighters Association includes nearly 300 volunteer fire departments in the province.
The program announcement can greatly enhance the abilities of community fire departments to safely and adequately respond to calls to motor vehicle collisions that involve entrapment.
The media release said the fund is to be managed by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, in consultation with SGI, the Provincial Standards Training Committee, the Saskatchewan Volunteer Firefighters Association, the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs and other stakeholders.
Wilkie’s Fire Chief, Randy Elder said, “As of this point, I have not seen any documentation for what the criteria to qualify so may be a couple of weeks before we know how this will impact Wilkie Fire Department.”
Elder also adds that currently WFD has extrication tools and are accredited regularly.
Volunteer firefighters responding to MVAs on Saskatchewan roads sometimes find victims entrapped as a result of the crash and if they do not have the training, nor proper tools, to extricate then they are forced to watch helplessly while waiting for backup.
A “golden hour” is often referred to by first responders meaning anything over an hour in trauma situations can see a reduced success rate. If responders are waiting for extrication, then it uses up valuable time in that golden hour and the victim still hasn’t been reached to receive medical care.
Unity Fire Chief, Dwaine Kopp, says, “UFD has the extrication tools and we practise with them on an ongoing basis, as there [are] always new things to learn. For example, we need to be aware of air bag cylinders are in all types of vehicles and battery locations in electric vehicles and hybrids.”
Kopp adds that he is still not sure how the announcement will help UFD and like other departments, hopes there will be an update in the near future.
The process for rolling out this newly announced program is still underway, with different levels of equipment being needed along with the capability of smaller departments to have enough personnel to participate in the training. Hydraulic tools can cost upwards of $30,000.