June 7, 2013, Waubaushene, Ont. - Yesterday, I was reminded why I love being a firefighter.
My pager went off at about 12:30 p.m., just before my lunch break at work. I listened to the first page and grabbed my cell phone to text my boss to see if I could go. He was out of the office at the time but I thought he’d be returning soon, and would hopefully tell me I was OK to respond.
By Jennifer Grigg
June 7, 2013, Waubaushene, Ont. – Yesterday, I was reminded why I love being a firefighter.
pager went off at about 12:30 p.m., just before my lunch break at work.
I listened to the first page and grabbed my cell phone to text my boss
to see if I could go. He was out of the office at the time but I thought
he’d be returning soon, and would hopefully tell me I was OK to
My frantic message? “Will you be back soon? Pager just went off.”
Then I hear the page go out again, “Hiker fallen down a 10-foot cliff with a broken ankle near the snowmobile bridge”.
I know the area where the hiker was and I knew that it was going to be a long hike in through the bush, and a quite likely an ordeal to get him back up the cliff.
I texted my boss again: “Sounds like they’re going to need help carrying the patient out from under the snowmobile bridge.”
He replied, told me he heard the call on someone else’s pager at a local restaurant. Then he told me he had a meeting at 1:30. My heart sank.
Oh well, I thought to myself. Not going to make this one.
Then he sent another text with one word (which thankfully wasn’t “fired”, this time anyway). He said, “Go”. I was out the door and running without a moment’s hesitation. He didn’t have to tell me twice.
I sent back a quick “OK” while I was running across the parking lot to the fire hall.
You know how sometimes you just get a feeling about a call? Like earlier this morning, when the pager went off for an MVC and I didn’t go because I knew the kids would never get themselves on the bus and off to school on their own if I went. And then I “got the feeling” that the call wasn’t going to be a big deal anyway, and I turned out to be right.
Well, when I got that text that said “OK” from my boss, and I knew I was good to go, I had the opposite feeling about this call. I knew it was going to be a “good” one.
Three of us responded in our rescue truck and our chief and another firefighter responded in another fire-department vehicle. Our chief was quick to activate mutual aid and call in a neighbouring township with manpower and a Gator, which turned out to be a saving grace.
When we located the hiker’s vehicle, paramedics were waiting for us. We loaded up our Stokes basket with the paramedics’ gear, and the six of us headed down the path – four firefighters and two paramedics.
Five minutes into the bush, we’re trudging along, carrying the Stokes and our rookie suddenly yells out, “Fire department.” The rest of us laughed and one of the paramedics said to him, “we’re about 15 minutes away from him, he’s not going to hear you.” Another five minutes in, rookie yells out again, “Fire department!” Again, we laughed. “You can tell who the rookie in the bunch is . . . ,” I teased him.
After about a 15 to 20 minute walk along the (narrow, rocky, and at times really steep) path, taking turns carrying the Stokes basket, we found the bridge we were looking for, and located the patient down along the shore below. Turns out he had fallen down more like a 30-foot drop (rather than the 10-foot drop originally reported), and was not in an easily accessible area. Just for the record, I do believe it was said rookie who made initial contact with the patient. I’ll have to ask him if he yelled “Fire department!” at him.
We managed to find our way down to him (which was a feat in itself), get him stabilized, collared, ankle splinted, boarded and loaded in the Stokes basket. It was a heck of a trek back up the rocky terrain with him, but with the help of four members from the Muskoka Lakes Fire Department, we were able to get him up to the Gator, and they transported him back out along the snowmobile trail to the awaiting ambulance.
Thank goodness the hiker had his cell phone with him and had a fairly good idea of his location, or who knows how long he may have been there. I’m sure it felt to him like it took us forever to get there but all in all, it went pretty smoothly considering what we were up against and it was a heck of a team effort among Muskoka EMS, Georgian Bay Fire and Muskoka Lakes Fire.
And, it was a great call and a great learning experience for one of the “minions”, the one who happened to be on duty yesterday.
It was the type of call that reminds you why you do this in the first place. The feeling of satisfaction that comes from giving your all to help someone you don’t even know, and may never see again.
Hope he made out OK.