Washington fire training lapses
The town of Washington’s volunteer fire department currently does not have any firefighters certified for CPR and first aid – a requirement for agencies called out to medical emergencies. Four emergency medical technicians for the department have let their certifications expire, as well.
The deficiency was brought before the public at a meeting Tuesday of the Washington Water Agency, which oversees the fire department. Fire officials said Wednesday the certifications will be regained as soon as possible.
“The fire department will get recertifications in short order,” said Tony Clarabut, the chief of the Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
CDF dispatches emergency calls for the Washington Volunteer Fire Department.
“They are a small organization – they are a long way from training sessions,” Clarabut said of the Washington fire department. “It’s a hardship because they are so remote. They are doing the best they can.”
While basic first-aid certification is required for all firefighters, EMT certification is not necessary, said Tim Crum, an administrative officer for the area’s CDF unit.
When fire crews respond to emergencies, EMTs can administer medical aid that goes beyond standard first-aid and CPR training. This aid includes bleeding control, oxygen administration, defibrillation and applying splints, Crum said.
To get EMT certification, an applicant must pass a 110-hour course. After the initial test, technicians take a recertification class every two years.
“If you are going to be a firefighter, by law you have to have a minimum of public safety first aid and (be) CPR-certified,” Crum said.
First-aid recertification is done every two or three years and CPR every one or two years, depending on who provides the course, Crum said. Both are included in EMT training.
Fire officials say such certifications are important, both for ensuring the life-saving skills of a firefighter and for protecting the fire department from potential litigation.
“There is always a chance for some liability if someone is practicing certain skills they are not certified for and something should go wrong,” Clarabut said.
Washington’s Fire Chief Mervin Lee said none of the district’s nine firefighters, including himself, is certified as an EMT or for CPR or first aid. He said three firefighters let their EMT license lapse by accident in December 2003.
Each firefighter’s CPR and first-aid license had to be renewed in January because of new regulations that previously only applied to paid firefighters, Lee said. He said he has not been EMT certified since 1999 because of a refiling error.
“For volunteers, these things happen,” Lee said.
Henry DeCorte, the department’s fire commissioner, said the firefighters will be getting their CPR training within a week, and plans are already in the works to get EMT training in Truckee.
CDF is helping the department find certification courses, DeCorte and Clarabut said.
DeCorte said the firefighters can still respond to emergency calls, they just cannot administer medical aid.
He gave an example, where, two weeks ago, a logger was hit by a falling tree.
“We did this as good Samaritans,” DeCorte said. “We stabilized him until the ambulance got there.”
Lee said he is looking for help in restoring the certifications from anyone who can offer the training.
“If there is any EMT or first-responder trainer who is willing to come out to Washington, we will pay them,” Lee said.
Anyone who can provide this service may call the Washington Hotel at 265-4364 and leave a message for Lee.
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