SCAPPOOSE, Ore. (KGW) — Firefighters are responsible for taking care of fires and preventing the spread of those fires, among other things. However, who takes care of firefighters when they get into situations they need help getting out of?
It turns out, it’s a team called REM or REMS, which stands for Rapid Extraction Module Support.
On Monday, the specialized crew made it home from the Bedrock Fire after a 14-day deployment. The Bedrock Fire is one of the biggest fires burning in Oregon. It has torched 30,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest Southeast of Eugene and it’s 35% contained.
In 2020, Scappoose Fire District started the REM program which is a specialty medical and rescue team that specializes in providing rope rescue services and medical support on large wildfire incidents.
In addition to all of the required wildland firefighting training, staff are certified in rope rescues in addition to paramedics and emergency medical technician training. This team is utilized to remove a firefighter from harm’s way in the steepest of environments, or in areas where traditional ambulances and medical staff are not able to access.
Crews made of four, respond with two full rope rescue kits, battery-powered extrication equipment, map navigation skills, GPS and monitor. While also coordinating between many different resources and communication platforms. The Utility Terrain Vehicles is the apparatus of choice that is chased by a four-wheel drive vehicle that has additional supplies and equipment.
“You think outside the box, it’s not a standard we show up with. Tie a rope here and then we go over the edge. Its how can we do this without using the rope, or yes we have the ropes but can we utilize a hand crew that’s there. You can have 20 or 40 people, let’s use them as a human chain and caterpillar that person up the line using the rope as a back up,” said Scappoose Fire District Fire Chief Jeff Pricher.
REM teams are generally brought in by the Medical Unit Leader, which is part of the Logistics Section in the Incident Command System and then assigned to a geographic area division on a fire. The Incident Safety Officer and the Division Supervisor coordinate the activities and staging location of REM units to best serve crews that may be in harms way or experience a significant medical event.
“Some of the most challenging events that can happen on a fire is if a firefighter steps on a bees nest or a hornets nest. A lot of people are allergic and when they step on the business, they could be 1,500 feet off of a dozer line down the hillside,” said Chief Pricher.
Luckily, the REM unit did not rescue anyone while they were at the Bedrock Fire.
When the REM unit is not on large fires, it is utilized for specialized rescues on our local mountain bike trails, search and rescue incidents and other fire or rescue incidents where traditional vehicles can’t access.
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