How fire departments prepare to rescue citizens in Palo Duro Canyon

How fire departments prepare to rescue citizens in Palo Duro Canyon
Randall Co. firetruck ready to be dispatched to an emergency; Source: KFDA
A bag of equipment sits at the ready for if an emergency call comes in; Source: KFDA
A bag of equipment sits at the ready for if an emergency call comes in; Source: KFDA
An intercom inside the Randall Co. Fire station alerts the crew to an emergency; Source: KFDA
An intercom inside the Randall Co. Fire station alerts the crew to an emergency; Source: KFDA
Randall Co. Fire Dept. insignia on the side of a department vehicle; Source: KFDA
Randall Co. Fire Dept. insignia on the side of a department vehicle; Source: KFDA

The Randall County Fire Department is tasked each summer with making sure visitors to Palo Duro Canyon have access to emergency services if needed.

"We do a lot of patient extraction off the trails from dehydration, lack of water," said Randall County Fire Captain Joe Koch.

At any point, a call can come in with someone requesting medical assistance.

"State police at Palo Duro Canyon gets a call," said Capt. Koch. "[They say] there is someone on the trail that is having a heat related emergency, or injury due to a fall or something like that. Then they call us in."

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Working alongside the Canyon Fire Department, the two agencies collectively send eight to 10 guys.

The dispatched crew has enough gear to handle for any situation.

"We carry a gear bag that carries rope and equipment in it in case we have somebody off the edge," said Capt. Koch. "We carry a medical pack. Also, we carry a basket to put the patient in to carry them out."

Each team member has voluntarily gone through extra training and skill development.

"The training we do for technical rescue is they gotta know their ropes and knots," said Captain Koch. "They do have to have EMS certification of some sort - either EMT basic, or all the way to the paramedic level. That way we can give our patients the best care as possible."

ER Now Doctor Yagnesh Desai says whenever you venture outside always tell someone.

"The best thing you can do if you don't have any kind of cell phone reception, or anything, is to make sure people know that you're there," said Dr. Desai. "Make sure [they know] that you're supposed to be back by this time frame. If you're not back this time frame, you need to have them contact authorities."

So far this year the team has responded to at least four calls in Palo Duro Canyon, including one woman whose body was pulled from the Canyon over the weekend.

Most rescue calls concern people from out of the area who are not always aware of the Panhandle conditions.

"We get a lot of people that is from out of the state," said Capt. Koch. "They're use to hot environments, but not the low humidity. It catches up with them a lot quicker."

Captain Koch hopes everyone is safe and a situation like that doesn't happen again.

"I just like everybody that goes to Palo Duro to make sure they take plenty of water, plenty of sunscreen and just be safe about everything they do."

Drinking plenty of water and eating a snack before venturing outdoors can prevent a costly emergency further down the trail.

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