Mudslide grant helps fire district buy electric stretcher

A new stretcher at Fire District 21 in rural Arlington makes it easier to move patients. The stretch was paid for through benevolent funds from the 2014 Oso mudslide. (Snohomish County Fire District 21)

ARLINGTON — After the devastating mudslide of 2014, those who serve the Stillaguamish River Valley have looked for ways to make their communities more resilient.

That has happened in ways big and small.

Snohomish County Fire District 21 in rural Arlington recently bought a $30,250 electrical stretcher. It went into service a few weeks ago. The cost was covered by the nonprofit Cascade Valley Health Foundation.

It was the last grant of about $2.1 million in donations the foundation received in connection with the disaster, said Jim Rankin, board president. The team in charge of the fund had three goals: support families who lost loved ones or had their homes damaged, strengthen emergency medical services, and support other local efforts including a community resource center in Arlington.

It was a daunting responsibility, Rankin said.

“It’s something we were very, very proud we were involved in,” he said. “It was a terrible tragedy … We feel very grateful we played a role in recovery.”

The stretcher is appreciated, Fire Chief Chad Schmidt said. It will see plenty of use. The district’s ambulance has gone to hundreds of emergencies so far this year.

The stretcher can be lowered or raised next to a patient, many of whom are in bed or on the ground.

“The biggest problem for firefighters and paramedics is back injuries,” Schmidt said. “That’s one of the main things that shuts down a career. Having this capability … is huge for us.”

It’s not the only recent grant for the district. The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians gave $60,000 in June for training and equipment. Last week, firefighters were getting sized for their new gear. The money also will go toward getting ready for wildfires.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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