2006-07-14 / Neighbors

Firefighter/paramedic unit added to Camarillo station

Daniel Wolowicz camarillo@theacorn.com

LIFE SAVERS-John Muhilly, left, and Mark Frailey are firefighter/ paramedics with Ventura County Fire Station 50's Squad-50, a new unit formed to provide enhanced rescue services and quicker response times for residents of Camarillo and the West County. LIFE SAVERS-John Muhilly, left, and Mark Frailey are firefighter/ paramedics with Ventura County Fire Station 50's Squad-50, a new unit formed to provide enhanced rescue services and quicker response times for residents of Camarillo and the West County. Firefighters serving Camarillo have been more than busy the past few weeks.

Within a matter of days in late June, members of the Ventura County Fire Department handled a plane crash, a brush fire and an attempted suicide by cyanide poisoning. That's not to mention the numerous day-to-day calls they receive.

To better manage the department's resources, Chief Bob Roper announced last week the addition of a full-time paramedic squad at Fire Station 50 in Camarillo.

Known as Squad-50, the unit will be made up of six full-time firefighter/paramedics, who will provide advanced life support during fire and accident calls.

Roper said he made the decision to move the daytime engine company at Fire Station 50 in order to free up $300,000 in his budget to add the emergency medical response unit at the heart of the city.

"This squad will be busy serving the central core of Camarillo in conjunction with AMR Ambulance and their paramedics," Roper said.

Firefighter/paramedic Mark Frailey, a five-year veteran, said the new unit is made up of firefighters who are cross-trained as paramedics.

Where a firefighter may only have basic medical emergency training and a paramedic no firefighting skills, firefighter/ paramedics are trained in both fields.

Frailey said a typical engine carries basic life-saving gear, but his truck is equipped with specialized equipment, various drugs and intravenous medications, as well as an electrocardiogram machine to monitor a patient's heart during transit to a hospital.

A majority of 911 calls made to the fire department are for medical attention, fire officials said.

A three-person engine company with firefighters crosstrained in handling hazardous material also is housed at Fire Station 50.

Because the fire station neighbors Camarillo Airport, firefighters there respond to plane crashes on the airfields. The squad of firefighter/paramedics is part of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Air Unit housed at the airport.

More and more, firefighters are required to handle a number of collateral assignments in addition to battling brush and structure fires. This trend has led topranking fire officials to reexamine the best way for firefighters to stay up-to-date on training. Roper faces a similar challenge in Ventura County.

"It's a very busy schedule for us to keep up on proficiencies," Roper said. "It's one of the challenges that we're trying to figure out how to meet today."

The chief said that in the past a firefighter was required to be "a jack of all trades," and needed to know how to deal with many different types of emergencies. Because the training has become so specialized, Roper said, more firefighters are choosing to train as experts in specific fields, such as handling hazardous materials or responding to calls requiring emergency medical attention.

"When the firefighters are not responding to an emergency, they are going through ongoing training," Roper said.

For firefighter/paramedics, though, it's all part of the job.

"It never gets old," Frailey said. "We're so versatile in everything that we do, that by the time you look at one aspect of what we do, we have to train ourselves in a new kind of field that only helps us to better serve the citizens."

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