Winter cant slow down firefighters |

Winter cant slow down firefighters

Steve LynnVail, CO Colorado
NWS Firefighters TS 04-11-08

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado Lt. Jodi Pratt worked overtime responding to six rollover car crashes with fire crews Friday morning after her 48-hour shift. We just kept making laps on I-70 because there were so many accidents, Pratt said. That kind of hard work has been typical for firefighters at the Eagle River Fire Protection District this winter. With heavy snow and a growing population, Eagle River firefighters have had almost 29 percent more calls than average this winter for incidents such as fires and car accidents. Thats the busiest winter Eagle River Fire has ever had, said John Willson, deputy chief of operations for Eagle River Fire. Were definitely cranking it out, Willson said. So for almost a dozen Eagle River firefighters like Pratt and Willson, a trip to California later this week to run in a 199-mile relay race means a break from a busy winter season. But the race is anything but downtime. Eagle River firefighters and other firefighters from Oregon and the Front Range 12 runners and two drivers in all will join 2,400 runners in a vigorous race through Californias coastal mountains Saturday and Sunday. Theyre racing to raise money for organ transplants and already have dedicated time to fundraising events in Beaver Creek and Edwards. They have raised $3,800 so far, some of which will go to travel expenses. A great deal of the money will go to the nonprofit Organs R Us to support families in need during the organ-transplant process. Its just one other way of giving back to the community and to the United States, Willson said.

The relay race isnt just about helping people, said firefighter Danny Quinn, who is organizing it. Its an adventure for the firefighters, the majority of whom have never been to California, he said. Its a really good way to kind of blow off some steam at the end of our busy season, he said. After a cold, snowy winter, Engineer Justin Ayer said he cant wait for spring in California. He just hopes hes in good enough shape to run, he said. I dont really run unless something is chasing me, so its going to be hard, he said. The firefighters will start in at 6 a.m. in the Napa Valley on Saturday, cross over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at midnight and run to their destination at the beach in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Sunday morning. Every firefighter will run three legs, ranging from three miles to almost nine miles.The race is also personal for the firefighters, who are dedicating their run to a fellow Eagle River firefighters sister-in-law, who has renal failure and is waiting for a kidney transplant. Firefighter Wade Michels has met a couple of students of his father, a retired principal, who have had life-saving organ transplants. He wants people like the ones hes met to live good, healthy lives, he said. Theyve had their life extended, and thats a good thing, Michels said.

Eagle River firefighters responded to 281 calls in March. They normally get 196 calls on average during that month. Its just gone crazy around here, Pratt said. The high number of calls has kept firefighter Jason Brown busy helping people. Its been really great, and its the reason we all became firefighters, he said.He wants to stay busy this spring, too, he said.This relay out in California is along those lines, he said. People might think that firefighters sit around the station and drink coffee until they are called out to the next emergency, Pratt said. But in addition to more calls this year, firefighters have trained, done fire inspections on public buildings and exercised to keep themselves in shape. In the fire station, Pratt sleeps next to a police radio and often has woken up early in the morning to a loud bell warning of an emergency.Constantly disturbing sleep patterns can cause stress that leads to heart disease, the No. 1 killer of firefighters, she said.So Eagle River firefighters are trying to get more exercise for their health, and the race is one way to do that, Pratt said. Its a different challenge, she said. It gives us another opportunity to work together and in a more fun way.

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