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Upper Pine Fire in Bayfield aims to train 100 new first responders in a year

Training effort funded by $200,000 federal grant
Upper Pine River Fire Protection District received a federal grant to train more first responders in rural areas. (Durango Herald file)

The Upper Pine River Fire Protection District plans to train 100 new emergency medical technicians by September 2022 as part of a federal grant.

The fire district, which covers eastern La Plata County and part of Archuleta County, received $200,000 for the training program. The goal is to expand learning opportunities for residents of rural areas who would otherwise have to travel long distances for training.

“If you were thinking about being an EMT, no better time than now to reach out and join one of these organizations,” the district said in a social media post.

In rural areas, it can take longer for first responders to arrive at an incident and transport a person for further care. That can mean first responders with higher-level training are frequently needed, the district said in a news release.

But new provider training is also limited in rural areas, such as La Plata County.

“Training has been limited to those who can make it to a training center or who are already trained and can be recruited from outside of La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan County,” said Bruce Evans, Upper Pine chief, in the news release.

With the federal funding, Upper Pine will offer rural students a chance to engage in primary and continuing education and/or advanced emergency medical services certification programs. The grant comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The program will allow students to access course material without driving an hour or more to get to a city or town offering collegiate-level classes, the news release said.

Some EMS courses are already offered at the Upper Pine training site. Partner agencies that submitted support letters, such as Durango Fire, Los Pinos Fire, Fort Lewis Mesa Fire, Silverton EMS and Pagosa Fire districts, will receive spots in upcoming EMT classes at Upper Pine, the district said on social media.

In addition to the EMT training, this grant will provide supplies, equipment and training about specific medications that will benefit populations at risk for alcohol or substance use disorders.

Firefighters will teach the general public how to prevent opiate overdoses and administer Narcan through a course called First On The Scene, the district said on social media.

“Opiate deaths are outpacing deaths from car crashes,” Evans said in the news release. “Having support to conduct this training from SAMHSA helps to get the skills and knowledge out to underserved rural populations.”

smullane@durangoherald.com

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