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May 19, 2024 May 19, 2024

Cypress County firefighters doing more than just fighting fires

Posted on April 25, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman
Southern Alberta Newspapers Photo Submitted. MORE THAN FIGHTING FIRES: Cypress County firefighters train on extrication and stabilization March 2 in Dunmore. Medical and motor vehicle collision calls accounted for most of the calls the county responded to in 2023.

By Sean Rooney
Cypress County Communications Coordinator

Fighting fires may be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about a firefighter, but in Cypress County it’s not borne out in the statistics.

Jason Linton, the county’s emergency services coordinator, says medical first responses comprise the majority of calls, and that means first aid is the course prospective firefighters need to have before any others.

“In 2023 alone we had 141 medical first responses,” said Linton, now in his second year as Cypress’ fire chief. “Our firefighters focus on fires, but there’s a lot more that goes on. We make sure they’re trained for all of it.”

The roster of 120 dedicated paid-per-call firefighters responded to 337 calls last year, including 57 motor vehicle collisions and 36 wildland fires. Fire alarms – calls which didn’t wind up being actual fires to fight – were next with 35.

Changing the mindset from purely being a firefighter to that of a first responder is a challenge Linton welcomes. While firefighter training remains a top priority, there are now just as many National Fire Protection Association certified wildland firefighters in his force as those with medical training beyond first aid and CPR. That number? Forty-five.

“To become a wildland firefighter, you must have standard first aid and CPR and attend two training sessions a year,” said Linton. “Full operational firefighters also attend a four-day orientation and either 16 of 24 training nights or 32 hours of training each year.

“It’s not for everyone, but it’s a rewarding line of work. We’ve got a great team here.”

Between their eight fire stations, Cypress County serves an area of more than 13,000 square kilometres. Response times are always top of mind, and Linton notes there are at least eight firefighters registered at each station. In many occasions, such as a massive hay bale fire near Seven Persons in March, multiple stations respond.

“We had almost 80 people out at that fire including firefighters from Medicine Hat and Brooks,” said Linton. “We’re one team, in the same way Cypress County is one community.

“It’s a 10-minute drive from Irvine to Walsh, and only 20 minutes from Dunmore to Seven Persons. We’ve always got backup ready when it’s needed.”

Asked whether the county is hiring firefighters now, Linton said they always are. Anyone interested in joining should contact emergency services via the fire services page on the county’s website (www.cypress.ab.ca).

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