ATV-riding firefighters rescue injured equestrian on Powell Butte

As night falls, see how Portland Fire & Rescue crews use a modern conveyance to rescue an injured horseback rider …

Firefighter Bruce Linson, a team member attached to PF&R Utility Truck 22, stationed at the St. John’s firehouse, drives the ATV carrying the injured horseback rider down Powell Butte.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A beautiful, late afternoon horseback ride with friends on Powell Butte went awry on February 18, when one rider’s horse lost its footing, and threw its rider.

Because after the fall he couldn’t ride or walk, his friends called 9-1-1 asking for help.

At 5:30 p.m., a Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Station 29 crew scrambled to locate and rescue the man — said to be on the South side of Powell Butte. The injured rider’s friends met firefighters at the trailhead, and together they hiked about a mile back up the trail with their medical equipment in hand.

Firefighters and paramedics prepare the injured rider to be moved off the ATV and onto the waiting gurney.

Soon, twilight turned into darkness on the Butte.

“The firefighters realized they couldn’t carry the patient down the steep trail,” PF&R spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt told us at the scene, as we stood near the waiting ambulance at the trailhead. “They asked that Utility Truck 22 (stationed at the St. Johns Fire Station) be dispatched to assist with transporting the patient down the trail.”

When we asked why they asked for a truck to drive all the way from St. Johns, Oswalt said, “This rig carries our two four-wheeler all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) – the same ones we used during the Powell Butte and Oaks Bottom controlled burns last summer.”

He explained that specialized equipment allows the ATVs to be adapted for many uses, including patient transport. “We have Utility 22 Units stationed at the St. Johns firehouse, primarily for use in Forest Park.”

While we awaited the arrival of the crew, Oswald told us that St. Johns Honda helped arrange a special deal, allowing PF&R were able to purchase two identical ATVs, instead of the single unit for which they originally budgeted.

Preparing the injured man for his trip to the hospital, rescue workers make sure the patent is secured and in stable condition.

Slowly, the headlights and emergency lights of the ATVs came into view as the crew, and patient, came down the trail.

As the crew carefully moved the patient, his leg already splinted, from the back of the ATV to the gurney, he looked to be in good spirits. His only comment was made to the firefighters, “Thank you. You guys are great.”

The patient was said to be in satisfactory condition as he was transported to Sunnyside Kaiser Hospital at 7:21 p.m.

The rescue of this rider was more swift and certain thanks to the crew trained to use the PF&R ATVs under a variety of conditions.

Precise location prompts faster rescues
“Rescues in the many wild spaces, even inside the city limits, often seem to take a long time,” commented Oswalt.

“A primary challenge is finding the exact location of the patient,” the PF&R spokesman continued. “Although firefighters have maps of all of the trails in every park, many times the signs marking the trail are vandalized, or people are unsure of their location. The best way for the public to help the rescuers is to send someone out to a main trail, to guide firefighters to the patient.”

A cell phone is an indispensable tool, since most of the wild areas in the City of Portland have cell phone coverage, Oswalt added.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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