Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Firefighters and USCG rescuers meet survivor of a forest rescue call

On July 17, 2014 we responded to a call in the Tillamook State Forest where a man working for a Washington County Surveying team had fallen into a ravine.  When firefighters and paramedics arrived they found 57 year old Dennis Keister in extreme pain after falling what looked to be at least thirty feet down a rocky ledge over a dry creek bed.  Mr. Keister had suffered severe trauma to his chest and paramedics were concerned that he could have suffered internal injuries that would eventually cost him is life.  This scene was up a long trail, in difficult terrain, and the work of carrying Mr. Keister out would have likely caused more serious injuries, so our crews called for assistance from the United States Coast Guard helicopters out of nearby Astoria Air Station.

Within a matter of minutes, a Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk piloted crewed by Lt. Commander Dan Leary pilot, Lieutenant Jason Maddux co-pilot, swimmer ASTC Joel Sayers, and Flight Mechanics AMT2 Josh Holt and Dan Bovard arrived on station and began to set up for hoisting the injured surveyor from the ravine.  The Coast Guard Jayhawk came in and lowered their rescue swimmer down to where our crews awaited him, and they began to formulate a plan to get the helicopter down into the very tight area.  Crews packaged Mr. Keister and gave him a helmet to wear to protect him during the hoist in the rescue basket and Lt. Commander Leary brought the aircraft in, hovering below the tree tops that surrounded the creek bed.  Aircrews and firefighters worked together to hoist the victim into the hovering helicopter, and then it was our turn.  Firefighter and Paramedic Rick Ilg was attached to ASTC Sayers and also hoisted into the aircraft to provide critical advanced life support care to Mr. Keister if needed during the flight to St. Vincent's Hospital.  In under twenty minutes, the Coast Guard crew delivered Mr. Keister to the helipad at St. Vincents hospital in Beaverton where he was rushed off to be treated for his injuries.

Calls like this are a somewhat rare occurrence for our crews, but ironically this one came nearly a year to the day from a call in 2013 where a Coast Guard helicopter was called to rescue a badly injured logger in the same part of our forest.  In the last thirteen years, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue has requested Coast Guard air support for four calls in our area, every time the Coast Guard crew responds with extreme skill and courage in the face of difficult circumstances.  On September 16, 2014 we got a chance to share our appreciation for the Coast Guard air crew when we visited their Air Station Astoria along with Mr. Keister and his family.  This was a wonderful occasion to gather around and relive the call, talk about the use of the Coast Guard helicopter in our area, and become familiar with their equipment.  It was also a tremendous occasion to spend it with the man who was saved through the work of the US Coast Guard, with his family along side of him to celebrate it all.  Our firefighters and their families were treated to a tour of the aircraft hangar and firefighting equipment at the air station, and also got to meet in person with the people that they worked with that day in July.  We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard for not only a job well done on this incident, but for protecting our nation each and every day.  

A full photo slideshow of the call and the visit at the air station can be found here.     

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Meet your Firefighters, our newest staff member, Jay Edwards

Meet your Firefighters:  Jay Edwards joined our full time staff on January 27, and recently completed his initial training and has received his first assignment to our C Shift.  We were honored to hire the 34 year old husband and father straight out of our volunteer program, where he has been involved with us since 2010.  the native of California, Jay and his wife Tereza now live with their daughter Callie in South East Portland, but he came to Oregon after falling in love with the beauty of our state during a visit with friends.  Jay's taken advantage of the Oregon scene, and now enjoys camping and hiking, and all things outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest; last year he competed in his first marathon in the annual Portland Marathon where he proudly finished the 26.2 miles.  For the last three years Jay has also competed in the Seattle and Portland Stairclimb teams here with us, completing the grueling climbs in full firefighter gear to raise money for medical research.

When Jay found out he was going to be a dad he thought it was best to prepare for anything that could happen to his young family, so he went to look for a CPR class.  During this search he decided to just take a full emergency medical technician class instead, and during a ride along to complete his coursework, he ran a call with a fire department and instantly knew that this was a career for him.  Family is extremely important to Jay, and he appreciates all that his parents and sister in California did to inspire him.  He remains close with his immediate family, and considers them a big part of his life. 

The graduate of Northern Arizona University, once aspired to be a professional journalist with his communications degree, and he has traveled Europe on a train with nothing more than a back pack.  He's a wonderful addition to our crew, and brings a diverse background and life experiences to the team.  We are happy to have you working alongside of us Jay Edwards, welcome aboard!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Forest Grove woman burned after smoking debris ignite bed

Early Saturday morning (November 23) firefighters responded to home on fire in the 2300 block of 21st Avenue in Forest Grove.  When we arrived, Forest Grove Police Officers and Washington County Sheriff's Deputies were already on scene and helping the occupants of the home escape the fire.  Outside the home firefighters found a badly burned 60 year old woman, and do her two roommates, and inside they found the remains of a smoldering mattress.  Paramedics from FGF&R and Metro West Ambulance provided advanced life support care on scene, and rushed the woman to the Oregon Burn Center at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital in Portland where she is being treated for severe burn injuries to her body.

Fire Investigators carefully examined the bed, interviewed roommates, and determined that the fire started when smoking debris fell onto the mattress as the woman fell asleep.  A home oxygen system likely encouraged the fire to ignite the mattress, and led to the sever burns.  Thankfully, the home had working smoke alarms that helped alert the residents that the fire was occurring.  This combination of smoking and using home oxygen is a consistent problem for America's fire services, and compounding that by smoking in a bed while using oxygen made for the very dangerous incident we had here.  Firefighters urge that if you choose to smoke that you only smoke outdoors and especially never in bed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't forget to test your smoke alarm when you change your clock this weekend

Ah yes, it is that time of year again; the Sun is lower in the sky, the air is getting colder, and the leaves are falling from the trees.  Fall is here friends and neighbors, and this weekend marks the time when when we set our clocks back an hour for Daylight Savings.  Years ago, we would tell you to change your smoke alarm batteries when you changed your clocks, but since 1998 Oregon law has required that all battery operated ionization type smoke alarms (ionization is the most common type) sold in our state were to be powered by a ten year battery.  Replacing this battery with a standard nine volt alkaline battery isn't a good idea, as it could cause the smoke alarm to fail.  So what do you do?
  •  Smoke alarms over ten years old, regardless of how they operate, should be replaced.
  • If they are hard wired into your home's electrical system, and are less then 10 years old, all you need to do is replace the back up battery.  A good old fashioned 9 volt back up battery is fine for these hard wired alarms.
  • If you have a battery operated smoke alarm, check to see what kind it is.  Somewhere on the alarm it should say if it is ionization or photo electric.  If the smoke alarm is of the ionization type, make sure it's less than ten years old, has a long life battery in it, and then test it to make sure it works.  If the smoke alarm says that it's a photo electric type, than it should already have a long life lithium power cell, as a nine volt alkaline doesn't have enough energy to power a photo electric alarm for very long.  Test your photo electric alarm and call it good. 
  • It's also a good idea to dust your smoke alarm out, using a can of computer keyboard cleaner or a vacuum, gently clean the device to remove any dust, cob webs, or other debris that could keep your smoke alarm from working properly. 
When you test these smoke alarms we hope that you also practice a family fire drill.  Everyone should know two ways to safely get out of their home, including a plan for when and how to use your window to get out safely.  Once you are out, the family should meet at a designated meeting place; this can be as simple as a tree, mailbox, or the driveway where everyone meets and a roll call is taken to make sure everyone is safely out.  Part of your family fire drill should talk about how no one is allowed to go back into the home unless it is safe, and also where a safe place your kids can go to ask for help and call 9-1-1 from.  


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Northwest Oregon can have severe weather too

Here we are, nestled in the evening shadow of the beautiful Oregon Coast Range where we get quite a bit of rain, relatively mild summers, and maybe a wintertime dusting of snow if the conditions are just right.  Sure we got inches, upon inches, of rain on a September weekend recently, but for the most part our weather is pretty tame compared to other parts of the country.  Still, wild and crazy weather can happen here.
Damage from the Columbus Day Storm near Newberg
Fifty-one years ago this weekend, a former Pacific Typhoon named Freda was stirring up the waters west of us when she decided to come on shore for a visit.  Weather forecasting in 1962 surely can't match that of 2013, but there was very little warning that this thing was coming in, and for the most part people didn't expect anything beyond a calm autumn day.  By the time the Coast Guard heard radio reports from ships at sea that something big was brewing, the storm was moving at 40 miles per hour and heading our way.  What became known as "The Columbus Day Storm" came in as a 125 mile wide  cyclone, that cut a path of wind swept destruction along 1,000 miles of the Pacific Coast, including our beloved hometown of Forest Grove.  

So, you may ask what is the point?  Well, the point is that things like this can, have, and will, happen to us.  So what do you do to be ready?  A person can go crazy filling their garage with disaster supplies, and hoarding items for the worst case scenario, but we hope that you take some very simple preparatory steps now that can make a difference if and when an emergency of any size, happens later.  

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers in your home, and work with your kids on memorizing these so that they don't have to depend on the contacts list of a cell phone to look up a phone number.  Be sure and include friends, family, and neighbors, that you trust to help in an emergency.
  • Have emergency food and water available.  We suggest 72 hours worth of food and water for your family.  Food items should be easy to prepare (don't forget your can opener if canned foods are part of your plan), and can be eaten without heating if needed.   Frozen containers of water kept in your freezer can also help you keep perishable food cold, and also allow for drinking water later.  Bleach and wash tubs are also good ideas to help keep things sanitary.
  • Simple tools, a spare gasoline can safely stored somewhere, and fuel for your camp stove or barbecue, can make all the difference in getting through a short term emergency.
  • Paper maps of our area are another good thing to have on hand so when power goes out and cell phone towers go down, you can't rely on the trusty apps on your smart phone.  Being familiar with your community can also help, knowing the back roads, rural routes, and surface street short cuts, will make it much easier for you to evacuate if that call comes in.
  • How well do you know your neighbors?  Simple things like being aware of who needs a little extra help, can ease the demands on emergency responders during a disaster.
  • Extra supplies of things for your own special needs.  Do you require a particular medication to function, what about eye glasses, or pet food?  These are things we often overlook when thinking about our family's emergency planning.
 Again, we aren't asking you to go out and prepare a safe room or a bomb shelter full of things for the apocalypse; instead we hope that you consider just a little extra of some of the things already in your garage or pantry ahead of the winter storm season.  You never know when you'll need it.       

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Halloween decorations catch fire outside Cornelius Walmart

This morning before 5:45, firefighters were called to the Walmart at 220 N Adair Street in Cornelius for a reported fire outside the store. When the first crew arrived, they found a display involving hay and pumpkins on fire in front of the store. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames, but spent almost an hour breaking the hay bales apart and cooling down the hot spots. Luckily, no parts of the building burned.

After investigating the cause of the fire, it was determined that the bales of hay were placed on top of in-ground spot lights used to illuminate the American flag. These lights were extremely hot and with direct exposure to the lights overnight, the hay was able to easily catch fire.

With Halloween right around the corner, this is a great reminder to cautious with any and all decorations used. Especially hay and corn stalks, it is vital to keep them away from things that can get hot like fire places, stoves, kitchen appliances, and light fixtures. It's also really important that you keep exit paths and doors clear and accessible at all times.

Lieutenant promotion wraps up a series of personnel moves at FGF&R

The 365 days between October 2012 and October 2013 have been full of changes in the staffing at your local firehouse.  Two federal grants, and a retirement have allowed five of our longtime staff members to receive promotions and work in new roles, and brought three new firefighters into the group; the final of these promotions became official this week when firefighter Will Murphy promoted to the role of Shift Lieutenant with our agency, thus filling the final vacancy left by the July retirement of longtime Captain Dwight Lanter.

Will calls Portland his home, where he and his wife Maria raise their three beautiful children, he has been an employee of Forest Grove Fire & Rescue since 2006, and also serves as the department's emergency medical officer. This special EMS role makes him responsible for overseeing what truly is a bulk of our agency's work; with over 70% of the agency's responses being for calls needing emergency medical assistance, this role is obviously a major task that involves establishing policies, protocols, equipment, and training for the career and volunteer firefighters at FGF&R.  An Oregon certified EMT-Paramedic himself, Will routinely works with other Paramedics as well as Emergency Room Physicians from all across Oregon to ensure that the emergency medical program at Forest Grove truly matches or exceeds the high standards for patient care that we all expect if we had to call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency.  In 2010 Will received the EMS Impact award from the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services, and in 2011 he was honored as the recipient of the Forest Grove Fire Chief's Award to recognize his outstanding commitment to emergency medicine in our region.  Fire Chief Michael Kinkade had this to say about Will's promotion "Will is the final piece of a great series of promotions that I think will revolutionize how this department works in the community.  He is a true leader, and what he's already done in our EMS system will without a doubt transfer over to how we works with the firefighters here and our neighbors in Forest Grove."

Will Murphy showcases airway management tools that Paramedics use in the field to visitors at our annual Open House

Will's first official day as Lieutenant will be October 3rd, where he takes over as second in command of our A Shift behind Captain Joe Smith; along with three staff firefighters, these five work together with two college interns as one of the three rotating 24 hour shifts at the Forest Grove Fire Station.  In the near future Will plans on continuing his EMS Officer position and as he transitions into the Lieutenant role he hopes to continue to involve Forest Grove in the regional discussion of emergency medicine, as well as work with our younger group of firefighters here to mentor and prepare them for success in their own careers.  Congratulations Will.

An official oath, and swearing in ceremony for Will is scheduled for the Forest Grove City Council meeting on the evening of November 25th.