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Wed, Dec. 11

Fire chief looking for committed volunteers

After getting a five-person initial response to the September Holiday Inn fire, Tusayan Fire Chief Robbie Evans is recruiting more members for the department.

The major challenge, he said, isn't getting trainees - more than 200 people have passed through EMT courses offered here by TFD and Coconino Community College over the years. It's getting them to stay. Turnover is so high that newcomers don't get a department T-shirt until they prove they're committed.

"They all go away and get real jobs somewhere," Evans said. "We'll give them a T-shirt when they prove they want to be with us a while."

While it takes just a handful of people for most calls, Evans said a deeper pool of volunteers is needed in the event of "something big and bad" like a bus or plane crash with mass casualties. First responders will pretty much be on their own for an hour before support arrives from Flagstaff.

"You never know what you're going to get," he said. "Especially if the call comes over a cell phone, there's not a lot of information."

While many people can handle the fire aspect of the job, most of the calls are for medical help - "our claim to fame," Evans said. A gruesome accident scene has ended more than one career.

"This is an adrenaline junkie's job," Evans said. "You can be sound asleep at two in the morning and you'll have to go from zero to 200 in two or three minutes. It's a whole different game at two in the morning."

The main qualifications are to be in decent physical shape and, said Evans, "to be able deal with stuff that's not pleasant to deal with."

They must also do 40 hoursof volunteer work at the station in the first three months as a show of commitment.

"If they devote the time, they actually want to volunteer," he said.

The department provides the training. Generally they meet on the first and third Thursday for about two hours and for one full Saturday a month. Volunteers who spend at least 12 hours a month in training earn a stipend of up to $100 a month.

"It's not a lot of money," Evans said. "It's kind of a reimbursement thing."

They will be starting CPR training and paramedic school this winter and plan to host another EMT certification course here. Once a month they train with other agencies ranging from Park Service to the fire department from Ponderosa.

He tries to keep the training from getting too tedious, scheduling extrication drills with real cars for practice or using a donated shed to practice venting.

"We're trying to get out and have fun again," he said. "It's kind of hard to do it with everybody having jobs and the nature of this community."

For more information, contact Evans at 6383473.

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