Missoula firefighters prepare for winter, but hope you do too - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula firefighters prepare for winter, but hope you do too

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MISSOULA - For Missoula firefighters, being prepared is not only part of the job, it’s part of life. And that’s especially true when it comes to the unusual rescue situations that can crop up in a mountain city like ours. 

But these trained experts tell MTN’s Dennis Bragg their job can be made less hazardous if people enjoying the mountains will also do their best to be prepared, even more so in the winter months.

Firefighters today are called upon to do much more than extinguish fires and help you with medical emergencies. That’s very true here in Missoula, where they are frequently called to perform mountain and river rescues. And because each scenario presents its own challenges and hazards, preparation is key.

“Absolutely and that’s what the training is for us today, for the fire department, the fire department team members," said Missoula Fire Dept. Captain Dean Johnson. "We’re being trained. We’re given scenarios by Aerie Backcountry Medicine and we are the ones who are learning today. And part of that is our own gear, our own preparedness and then dealing with the patient. So that adds a whole other level when you have somebody else that you need to take care of.”

Johnson says the biggest variable is changing weather conditions, and bikers, hikers and others not being ready for Montana’s wild swings in temperature.

“But that’s where people get caught," Johnson said. "You know, you head out on a day like today, you go up the Rattlesnake, you’re just going to go mountain biking for a few hours, weather changes, you get hurt, you have a mechanical failure and now potentially you’re spending the night out. Which can lead to a rescue situation.”

For the firefighters, and for the well prepared recreationist, the objectives are the same. Check and re-check gear, have adequate food and water, and most of all, tell someone about your plans and stick with them.

"Let people know where you’re going. And like you said, more often than not these days we really too much technology and in addition to my GPS I carry an old-fashioned compass. The batteries don’t go dead on those.”

For Johnson, making sure MFD crews are briefed and ready to go, dealing with the variety of situations that can develop are what makes a career as a firefighter such an interesting job. But he hopes their example can be followed by people enjoying their time off too.

“So hopefully I’m prepared, we’re prepared and we’re able to assess, treat, stabilize that patient and have a positive outcome at the end of the day. And that’s a big part of what the training is today for the Missoula Fire Department.”

If you’d like to learn more about backcountry safety you can find more information online.

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