First responders practice teamwork during interagency medevac exercise

CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — Great Plains Interagency Dispatch, which coordinates wildland fire operations across South Dakota and Nebraska, hosted their 11th annual medevac training in Custer State Park on Wednesday.Img 4308

“We have five different stations – three different aircraft and two ground resources,” says Matthew Karges, the lead dispatcher with the U.S. Forest Service for Great Plains Interagency Dispatch. “We have the South Dakota National Guard, Black Hills Life Flight, Black Hills Interagency Helitack, North Zone Fire Management from the Black Hills National Forest, as well as Rapid City Fire Rescue and their rapid extraction module.”

The goal, Karges says, is to provide exposure to these different resources and show them what’s available and how to request assistance in the field. It also gives different teams a chance to work together.

“There’s no question the interagency cooperation in our area – the Black Hills and Nebraska – is super; that just makes things go much smoother when an incident does occur,” says Tim Daly, the State Rapid City Fire Management Officer.

Among the presenters was Black Hills Life Flight. They walked attendees through what their capabilities are and how they can assist during field scenarios. Given the local topography, Life Flight provides an essential service.

“The remoteness of the area kind of limits the capabilities of people on the ground of access to the patient, whereas a lot of times we’re able to come in from directly above to access the patient without having to take four wheelers and those sorts of things to get back to them,” says Tanner Walz, a flight paramedic with Black Hills Life Flight.

Black Hills Helitack is the initial attack for wildfires in the Black Hills National Forest, but even they have the ability to assist in medical emergencies – something the attendees learned.

Frank Haines, the Helitack Captain for the Black Hills Helitack Module, says, “We do have medical capabilities at the basic level. Predominantly we’ll carry people that can normally ride in just a sitting position, but we do have the capabilities of putting in a litter and a backboard in the aircraft if needed.”

As we come more into fire season – and tourist season – these groups will be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice to serve their communities.

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