Why Wildland Firefighters Need EMS - The National EMS Scope of Practice Model

Over at another wildland fire themed website, there is an active discussion on the Interim NWCG Minimum Standards for Medical Units. Seems quite a few folks over there are having problems grasping the fact that EMS has entered the 21st Century and is evolving. As someone who has been an EMT for over 25 years as both a provider, and former instructor and policy writer, I find the general theme of the discussion over there as very disturbing and misleading as to the progress that is being made by both NWCG and FIRESCOPE. In some cases, the information at the other website is completely false at the minimum, at worst damaging. As such, I will not provide a link to that website.

If you read this website regularly, you will notice that I frequently provide articles and information about EMS subjects. If you know me personally you'd know that I served on several EMS cadres in the past, as well as having been recently involved in many agency policy discussions regarding the proper treatment of firefighter injuries (burns, trauma, cyanide, etc.). I guess I should give you an idea why I have the passion. Here's it in a nutshell.... a dead firefighter that shouldn't have died. The year was 1987 and I had only been an EMT for two years at the time.

After the death of Fire Captain Bruce Visser, many folks on the San Bernardino National Forest began taking EMT classes and putting together "trauma bags" at their own expense. We also upgraded the old "Life-O-Gen" cylinders that were issued by the Agency during the 1980's, to modern oxygen resuscitation equipment. Between 1987 and 1994, it was a small movement mostly done engine by engine, crew by crew, and hidden from "upper management". Between 1994 and 1998, the need for Medical First Responder training grew and was eventually added to the National Apprenticeship curriculum. In 1998, we got a new Forest Fire Chief (Mike Dietrich) and the momentum for the program accelerated to what it is today. We went from hiding the program from "upper management" in the early days to sharing it.... and having them help us champion it. As the program grew, we began to notice we were stepping into a gray area that needed to be addressed.

In 2000, I lead a group wildland firefighters attempting to get our local EMS program inline with current federal and state laws at the request of Chief Dietrich. As a result of the work that the group performed, the San Bernardino National Forest was successfully registered as a Basic Life Support (BLS/EMT) Provider with the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency (ICEMA) in early 2001. Currently, the San Bernardino N.F. still performs as a BLS provider; has an internal employee AED program and Epi-Pen program; and a top notch EMS cadre that teaches EMT and Medical First Responder at the community college level.

Now that you know a little bit of the history, you'll understand why I'm a little disturbed about the discussions at that other wildland fire website. We've come a long way, and we don't need to step backwards as folks try to re-invent the wheel. There's a lot of good folks and experts involved.... Agency Administrators, Risk Managers, EMTs, Paramedics, and Medical Doctors all collaboratively working on both the NWCG and FIRESCOPE standards . Enough is enough..... give it a chance..... Utilize one of the tenants of HRO: Deference to Expertise...... sorry... Rambling.

Additional Info:

The New EMS Scope of Practice: Where Do States Stand? - Presentation by the National Association of State EMS Officials

National Association of State EMS Officials - April 30, 2010 Newsletter

Full Story: CLICK HERE

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