Woodburn Fire District will add two trained paramedics this summer, bolstering its advanced life support capacity

COURTESY OF WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Woodburn Fire Fighters, left to right, Ryan Johnson, Mitchell Raines, Robb Gramzow and Jesse Halpern. Johnson and Raines are completing paramedic training, joining Gramzow, Halpern and Jon Koenig on the districts advanced life support unit.Woodburn Fire District announced that two firefighters will complete paramedic training in July, reinforcing the district's advanced life support (ALS) staff skills.

WFD Chief Joe Budge said that Mitchell Raines, who has been with the district eight years, and Ryan Johnson, who has been with the district six years, have been working toward this goal for the past 18 months.

It was no small task.

Raines and Johnson have completed 420 classroom hours, 248 clinical hours, 540 internship hours and the national paramedic examination required to perform as paramedics in the state of Oregon.

This addition will fortify the paramedic presence on staff, which currently includes veterans engineer Robb Gramzow and Lt. Jon Koenig, along with paramedic Jesse Halpern, who was hired in May 2019.

"The addition of the new paramedics to the district staff will ensure that a paramedic is on duty at all times to serve the Woodburn and Gervais communities," Budge said. "The full-time ALS program represents fulfillment of a commitment made to fire district residents as part of the local-option levy campaign in the fall of 2018. The levy provided funding for the paramedic training and the purchase of state-of-the-art emergency medical equipment."

With this new capacity, the district plans to install a CPR program for community members in the fall. WFD officials said that CPR skills among community members combined with paramedic response is a proven combination that increases survival in instances of cardiac arrest.

"I do this work because it makes a daily difference in this community and in the lives of the people who we serve," Gramzow said.

He's not alone.

"It is a humble honor to care for my family, friends and fellow citizens on oftentimes their worst days," Koenig said.

"Being a paramedic is one of the biggest privileges of my life, and I look forward to many years of using this program and the equipment to help give this community the emergency medical response they deserve," Halpern added.

Newcomer paramedics Raines and Johnson have similar perspectives.

"Being a part of the Woodburn Fire District has always been an honor. I love my job and feel that our fire district stands out for a number of reasons," Johnson said. "I am excited to be a paramedic and lead the team on medical emergencies. ... To me, being a paramedic means being the go-to person. I want to be the person with the answers and the person who brings stability into people's lives when they need assistance."

Raines regards the training and added responsibility as a legacy, of sorts.

"I have always loved and been fascinated by medicine. While I was growing up, my mom was an emergency-room nurse at Meridian Park Hospital," Raines said. "It didn't matter if it was a skinned knee or a real emergency. She was always calm and collected and everyone looked to her for guidance. I really admired that about her and knew when I grew up I wanted to be a person who knew what to do in emergency situations."

Consequently, Raines said the opportunity for paramedic training was one he could not pass up.

"I am really excited about being part of this team and getting to exercise a bigger scope of medicine," he said.

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