Richland, Benton County buy rescue stretchers for Badger Mountain

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJuly 17, 2013 

They look like off-road versions of a stretcher, with large, durable wheels.

And they'll make a big difference for the firefighters responding to medical calls on Badger Mountain and the injured trail-users they're sent to help.

"In the past, we'd have to get six or seven people up there and try to carry the person down, which is very labor intensive," said Adam Hardgrove, a firefighter with the Richland Fire Department.

But the new rescue litters, or stretchers, can be managed by one or two people and will lessen the time it takes to get patients off the mountain.

They'll also allow crews to provide medical care on the way down. "We can put our oxygen equipment in there, we can put our cardiac monitor in there ... we can start everything," Hardgrove said.

He and several other fire officials and Benton County leaders gathered Wednesday to debut the two new litters.

One will stay at the trailhead park off Queensgate Drive in Richland and the other will be stationed at the mountain's summit. They'll be locked up for use by emergency officials.

Benton fire districts 1 and 2 provided the baskets, and the county bought the wheels and chassis, which totaled $1,600.

The litters are part of a larger effort to improve safety and preparedness at Badger, which saw about 187,000 hikers in 2012.

Color-coded markers soon will be placed along the trails to help injured trail-users relay their positions to first responders. The county and Friends of Badger Mountain are collaborating to make them.

Hardgrove and Richland Fire Capt. Ron Duncan, who brought the idea of the litters and color-coded markers to the county, also have identified several landing zones for helicopters.

Duncan said first responders see everything on Badger from sprains and bee stings to heart attacks.

"We have a big variety of people that are climbing the mountain, anywhere from 3 or 4 years old up to 80, 90 years old," he said. "From our point, we want to be proactive."

Other steps also are being taken to make the popular site safer.

Benton Fire District 1 is working on signs for the trailheads that provide information on what to do if a fire breaks out on the mountain -- something that happened a couple of weeks ago, sparked by lightning.

And fire and county officials are discussing more ways to warn of and prepare for Badger fires.

"We're hoping to (use this approach) as a model for the whole county" as more hillsides are developed with trails, Duncan said.

Benton County Commissioner Jim Beaver, who checked out the litters at Wednesday's gathering, said "the politician's job is to listen to the people who know best and try to bring something to the table to say, 'OK, what can we do to help?' "

"From (commissioners') standpoint, thank you everybody who was involved in recognizing the problem and identifying the solution," he said.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling @tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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