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STARS Air Ambulance ready to start

Brandon Logan, Central Plains Herald-Leader

STARS Air Ambulance will be starting to make a bigger impact across all of rural Manitoba in the coming months.

Gerry Currie, fire chief for the Austin Fire Department, said the department has been trained to be able to set up a landing zone in town and on the highways if needed.

"We got training modules from the Fire Commissioners Office of Manitoba for setting up landing zones, safe areas, loading procedures and much more."

After receiving the modules, two training sessions were held to get the entire department ready in the case that a landing needs to be made in Austin or the surrounding area.

"In our first session, we went through all the basic procedures," said Currie. "In the second training session, we drove around Austin looking for a place good enough for a landing zone and then set one up."

Currie said the zone chosen was the Austin Sports Grounds because it was a large mowed area that had adequate clearance for a helicopter.

For highway emergencies, Currie said they learned how to set up landing zones on the highway so the helicopters could land on the pavement.

These steps will be taken across the province, as it is the hopes of the Fire Commissioner's Office that they can get as many fire departments as possible to support STARS.

Currie said once that is done, STARS would begin to try night flying.

"When we did our training, we looked at proper setups for night landings," he said. "We look at proper lighting, where to set up pylons to make a landing zone, and putting strobe lighting at every corner to show the helicopter where to land."

Night flying will start when the Fire Commissioners Office of Manitoba gives the green light. This is because night landings are much more in depth in setting up.

Other provinces have developed this model of emergency services and Manitoba has finally decided to follow.

"It provides a quick response time and higher levels of care," said Currie. "We'll be able to transport patients to emergency centres much quicker."

The people of Austin will have a chance to see the fire department and STARS work together during the Austin Threshermen's Reunion on July 28.

"STARS selected the reunion as one of their activities they will attend to promote their service," said Currie. "The Austin and MacGregor Fire Departments will be setting up the landing zone for STAR-7. The tentative time for landing is at 3:30 p.m."

It will be a great way for the public to see how the whole process develops when there is an emergency.

STAR-7 will still be in use on that day, so if there is an emergency, it will have to leave the grounds.

"July 28 will be a great day for the fire departments to have some live training," said Currie. "I'm looking forward to it."

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