Caddo Fire District 4 uses donation to buy 2 FAST Rescue boards

“This board ... gives us, a smaller department, the ability to really make a difference”
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 10:26 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 12:24 PM CST
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KEITHVILLE, La. (KSLA) — They’re the first on the scene battling blazes and saving lives.

Caddo Parish Fire District 4 serves roughly 3,000 households in a 110-square-mile area, staffed with a mixture of paid and volunteer firefighters. These teams rely on each other to get the job done quickly and safely.

Visibility drops in seconds, and they need to be able to locate a person and get them out fast. That’s where the new FAST Rescue boards come in.

“This board kind of changes that game a good bit and it gives us, a smaller department, the ability to really make a difference,” said Firefighter and Medic Josh Gamble.

FAST Rescue boards can cost between $2,300 and $3,000. District 4 recently received a donation from Chesapeake Energy that allowed them to purchase two, making them some of the first in northwest Louisiana to be able to use them.

“So our goal at Chesapeake is to be a good neighbor, right? And if we can put lifesaving equipment into the hands of our first responders, I think that’s a win-win for everybody,” said Stormey Webster, administrative assistant for Chesapeake Energy.

Jonathan Wheelis, operations manager for Chesapeake Energy, added: “Say you did have a man down or an individual down on location. Historically, you have to go over there and physically grab that individual and try to pull them out. So you’re dragging them across rocks, debris, whatever that area may be. Where now, you can get that individual — whether it be a civilian, firefighter or worker — get them on that board, they can slide with much more ease.

“They also have attachments that go on the bottom of it,” he continued. “Actually, little Kevlar is what it looked like; not exactly sure the exact material, that allows an individual’s legs to be able to slide easier out. So you should be able to minimize the amount of time that individual’s in that area.”

Caddo Fire District 4 Firefighter and Medic John Phelan said donations like these are invaluable to their team and their work.

“To be out here in the fire district, we work with a different amount of resources compared with a big city like Shreveport or Bossier. So we really rely on the people that we work with, their 61 duty, got some mutual aid from surrounding areas. But, for the most part, it’s small group of guys that’s there when the bell hits.

“Donations from private companies are a big deal for us,” he added. “Our budget is very limited compared to some of the bigger city departments. So when Chesapeake comes along and makes a significant donation like they have, it allows us the opportunity to buy equipment that provides better services for our community and makes it safer for the people who work with.”

While at Caddo Fire District 4, the team let me shadow their training for the day. Now, as you can see, I don’t think they’ll be hiring me anytime soon. But I’m grateful for the eye-opening experience of how much the gear weighs and how quickly a fire can consume a home and leave people stranded or injured.

Yet another reason the FAST boards are invaluable for Caddo Parish Fire District 4. To these brave men and women, we say thank you.