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First aid ups fire-fighters’ skills

How fire-fighters are using first aid and mental health first aid taught by Red Cross to help during this season’s devastating bushfires.

As a 30 hectare grassfire burns, in high winds and with appalling dust and smoke conditions, First Aider Kylie Ledger works quickly to help treat a fellow fire fighter suffering superficial and partial thickness burns.

The injured man is evacuated by ambulance and Kylie, Senior Deputy Captain of the Darlington Rural Fire Brigade, gets back to fighting fires.

There’s a popular saying, don’t give up your day job. It couldn’t be more true for Kylie, a skilled Red Cross First Aid Trainer by day and volunteer fire-fighter of 15 years.

“Over the season I have dealt with the usual heat stress, sore eyes, dehydration, but have also assisted with a severe laceration to the arm from a broken window, requiring emergency treatment and ambulance retrieval - in amongst defending homes in Rainbow Flat from a fire front and reports of a cardiac arrest, which added to the challenge!” Kylie explains.

It has been tough; we've done a lot of property protections, saved some houses, lost others.

It’s been a long and difficult summer for the skilled and experienced fire fighter and her crew.

“It has been tough; we have done a number of property protection, saved some houses, lost others.  It has been devastating seeing the damage, particular to our bush and the wildlife,” Kylie says.

Kylie’s team has been fighting numerous fires up and down NSW since August last year.

Their season started early, with fires in the Putty and Howes Valley area of the Hunter Valley back in August. Through spring and into summer, the team worked their way around the state’s fire hotspots, from the Long Gully Fire near Tenterfield, to Forster on the mid-north coast, Bredbo in the Snowy Mountains, then close to home fighting local fires back in the Hunter Valley region.

I was struggling a bit before Christmas, and I’m sure when the season is finally put to bed there will be a lot of reflection and debrief.

This long summer of bushfires has had a profound impact.

“I was struggling a bit before Christmas, and I’m sure when the season is finally put to bed there will be a lot of reflection and debrief.  I know some of my crew are also needing time to talk, and that is scheduled in. 

“As a Crew Leader I am responsible for my crew to make sure they are okay. Having done Mental Health First Aid with Red Cross I have some extra tools in the toolkit to assist me.”

Those extra tools work both ways, adding additional value to her work as a first aid trainer.

“I am a First Aider, I have no paramedical or medical background so I like to relate real-life experiences and have my students share theirs, when comfortable, to reinforce that we can all do this.

“Every situation is different and brings its own unique challenges, and each time I learn something about myself, my skills, and how to make improvements, and also bring that to my training.”

Kylie teaches first aid in NSW’s Maitland and Tamworth regions. Running courses from Provide First Aid through to her favourites, Advanced First Aid and Provide First Aid in remote situations.

“I work on the philosophy that people learning first aid need to be emergency managers.  They are dealing with critical situations and have to be calm and coordinated and able to keep others around them calm and in control. 

“The by-product of that is it helps build community resilience – if key people in a group can take control, there are better outcomes for all involved.” 

Kylie is described by colleagues as an outstanding trainer, and human being. We couldn’t agree more and thank her for her incredible dedication and work in her day job and volunteering.

Kylie Ledger