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Mock disaster test handled to everyone’s satisfaction

Thursday evening (Oct. 12th), just before 7:00 p.m., a 911 call was relayed from the central dispatch in Lethbridge to the fire department, ambulance crew and hospital in Milk River.

A vehicle had rolled over on Range Road 163, south of Highway 501. The number of casualties was unknown. Immediately, the fire truck, and emergency vehicles were dispatched, the Coutts rescue team alerted for assistance, and the hospital started calling in extra nurses and emergency staff.

Only Murray Thompson, Regional Community Liaisons Officer with the Lethbridge Fire Department, who organized the ‘disaster’, Milk River Fire Chief Randy Kukucska, Ken Theodore of the ambulance department, Lorraine Dobrocane at the hospital, and Coutts Fire Chief, Mark Stanford knew that it was a fake call.

At the scene, a vehicle had rolled. Three occupants were still trapped inside, and two had been ejected. All had life threatening injuries. From the time that the emergency call was received to the last victim arriving at hospital was 55 minutes, which according to Thompson “was extremely good”. However, the response is judged not just on time taken. Also taken into account are such things as how the victims were extricated from the vehicle, was it done safely, how the victims were stabilized to prevent further injury, and were they transported safely. Thompson added “everything was done by the text book”. Theodore also commented on the “excellent cooperation they received from Coutts”.

At the hospital, all the extra staff that were called in, were at their stations, ready to receive the victims, before they came through the hospital doors. As the injured were received, the correct decisions were made as to which staff to assign to which victim, and all received the proper care. Dobrocane, who was able to stay back and assess the operation, was “well satisfied”.

Although a few minor mistakes occurred, none of which threatened the safety of, or attention the injured were receiving, all the organizers agree that there is always room for improvement, and the departments cannot sit back on their laurels. The rescue operation, at the scene, was video taped for future training sessions.


Raymond, Stirling and New Dayton to receive vastly improved telephone service.

A new fiber-optic cable connecting Raymond to the existing Telus fiber-optic lines running along highways 4 and 5, as well as modernization of the existing long distance systems, will provide a vast improvement in local telephone service.

“The news lines are capable of ‘Ring Technology’ which

Crews are already out surveying the route for the fiber-optic line

that is being layed in the Raymond area will allow for highspeed internet connections.

Crews are currently surveying the routeThe fiber-optic telephone line will connect the Raymond telephone exchange with the existing fiber-optic lines running along highways 4 to the east and 5 to the west, said Nick Culo of Telus.


The following story is one of a series of profiles that were done for a Remembrance Day supplement. We intervied a number of vets from around the area about their war time experiences, and then included photos from the time they were in the service and a current head shot.

Jay Snow

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Milk River
Jay Snow was born in the old Van Haarlem hospital in Lethbridge, and in October 1940, at the age of 19, and having graduated from Milk River High School, he decided to enlist. Taking a bus to Calgary, he was disappointed to be rejected, “Because I had bad tonsils” he said. “They wouldn’t pay to get them fixed, so I had to come home, go to St. Mike’s, get them out and then reapply. This time, I was accepted for aircrew / pilot training. It was January 9, 1941.”
“I was assigned to the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, in Carberry, near Brandon, Manitoba, and we trained on old obsolete aircraft from Britain and the U.S.. Next I was moved to Regina, where they had a flight simulator and some old Fairey Battles, then to Edmonton city airport where I trained on Tiger Moths, and finally to Saskatoon where I learned to fly the twin engine Cessna Crane. Unfortunately, they hadn’t yet taught me how to land in a cross wind, and on an exercise, where I had flown to Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, and then home base, I was coming into land in a cross wind. I took out the undercarriage of the aircraft. Wing Commander Denton Massey told me I wasn’t ‘Washed out’, but that I was definitely a square peg in a round hole. I immediately applied for air gunnery school.”
“After training, which was using a pair of old W.W.I Lewis machine guns stuck in the rear of a Fairey Battle, shooting at a drone, I was shipped to Britain, along with two dozen other airmen, in October 1941. We docked in the Clyde, in Scotland, and caught a train for Bournemouth in southern England. It was a long trip, and we hadn’t eaten for quite a while. An English officer said he’d get us something, and came back with a large box of food for each of us. It was W.W.I hard tack. After that I even got to like the English breakfast of a bowl of oatmeal and fried kippers!”
Jay was sent to the First Air Armament school, and trained on various aircraft. He ended up assigned to RAF 107 Squadron in Norfolk. “When the Blenheim, which had a crew of three, was replaced by the U.S. Boston, that had a crew of four, us Canadians, filled in.”
“When we flew a mission, we would leave our airfield and hedge hop to the south coast so the German radar couldn’t pick us up. At Beachy Head, we’d pick up our fighter escort and then cross the channel. If we were on a low-level mission, we would fly just above the sea to our target. There might only be two of us on this type of raid, and the fighters would create a diversion for us. If it was a heavy raid we would fly high, in formation with the fighters protecting us. I remember one flight, when we were diving on our final bomb run flak was really heavy, and I looked out my turret and saw a fighter plane along side of us, only a few feet away. Then I realized its propeller wasn’t turning. But that pilot was doing his job, he was following us right to the target. I don’t know who he was but I hope he survived. One of the fighter pilots was Bob Zobell from Raymond, who is credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft over Dieppe.”
After 30 missions, including three over Dieppe, Jay was used as a gunnery instructor, and at the end of his tour of duty, he was at the Central Gunnery School, himself learning evasive strategies using camera guns. In April 1944, he was sent home on 30-day leave, but at the end of it, as there was no available transportation back to the war zone, he got an extra 30 days.
June 26, 1944, found him posted to 180 Squadron, RAF, stationed at Cranleigh in Surrey, England. At midnight, he took off in a Mitchell, which was a B-25, and had a crew of four, for a bombing raid over Caens. “I was the belly gunner, but I found there wasn’t a gun in my turret, so I just laid there looking for any enemy fighters so that I could warn my pilot to take evasive action. It was a beautiful moonlit night over a solid cloud base. We bombed our target and by 3:00 a.m. we were back. Because of the number of aircraft, we were stacked up awaiting to land. One engine quit, and as we were coming in, the other did as well. The pilot asked us if we wanted to bale out, but when I asked him our height and he replied 400 feet, I told him I’d stay for the ride. I was sitting with my back to the bomb wall, trying to brace myself when we landed in an orchard. One wing tip hit a shed and we slew around coming to a halt. I knew I’d smashed my back, but I managed to crawl out of the aircraft into a tree. A lot of civilians came to help us, but when they tried to get me down I told them that I was quite comfortable where I was, and would wait for the ambulance crew. I didn’t want them pulling me down and injuring my back any further. I was wearing heavy canvass coveralls, which was like a ready-made stretcher, which helped the medics when they arrived. The military hospital was close by and there I learned that I had a compressed fracture of three vertebrae.”
After two weeks in the hospital, Jay was shipped back to Canada on a hospital ship, and then to Rockcliff, near Ottawa. Three months later the cast came off and he chose to go to a convalescent hospital in Niagara Falls. It was here that he met a Red Cross driver named Jessie, whom he married. He was demobilized in September 1945.


The Milk River and District Ambulance Service may cease to exist at midnight on May 5.

At a special meeting on Wednesday, April 19, Milk River town council passed a notice of motion that will be voted on May 3. The motion, if passed, will shut down the Milk River and District Ambulance service as of midnight May 5.

At the meeting, Ted Bochan, emergency services coordinator for Milk River, said that under Alberta Health regulations, ambulance service must be provided on a 24-hour basis. With the recent resignation of the chief of the ambulance service and a number of volunteers, there is only one paid EMT-A and four volunteers left to staff the service, and that is not enough bodies to cover off 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If Alberta Health finds that we are not providing 24-hour service they can rescind our ambulance license. If they do that it will be very difficult to reinstate the license, said Bochan. By voluntarily withdrawing service it will be much easier to have the license re-instated when the service once again has the manpower to staff on a 24-hour basis.

Bochan said the service should have a minimum staffing level of four paid staff and seven volunteers. This would cost the town in excess of $200,000 a year. It was suggested that a special levy of approximately $400 per ratepayer could be implemented to cover these costs.

Council had at first been prepared to vote on the motion that would close the ambulance service, but at the end of the meeting decided that they would instead pass a notice of motion, so that Milk River residents would have an opportunity to express any concerns that they had.

The bottom line is that even if the service closes, residents of Milk River and area will still be able to call 911 and have an ambulance respond, said Bochan, but it will come from somewhere else.


Coutts gets new ambulance

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Smelling like new, the recently purchased ambulance of Coutts Fire and Rescue sits outside its bay.

The ambulance was purchased in February for approximately $120,000 and was ready for service in March.

“We needed it bad,” said Mark Stanford, Coutts Fire Chief, explaining that the existing ambulance is over 20 years old.

“But we’ll still use the old one as a rescue vehicle.”

Some of the money for the ambulance was donated. Both the town and the Ag. Society gave $10,000 each and other various organizations and businesses donated a total of $3600.

Volunteers who helped extinguish the Milk River Ridge fire contributed their time back into the funds for the ambulance.

“Not one person was paid a cent. They all said “put it towards the ambulance,”” said Stanford. “Some of those people worked 40 to 60 hours and it was our biggest contribution.”.

Coutts Fire and Rescue also raised money by hosting rodeos, casinos and raffles. These events also bring in money to maintain existing vehicles and facilities. But with the ambulance not quite paid for Coutts Fire and Rescue is still looking for donations.

In an adventure all of its own, Stanford and Erwin Gamble, the Coutts Fire and Rescue ambulance coordinator, flew down to Orlando, Florida to pick-up the ambulance, which was manufactured by Wheeled Coach. They then drove it back to Coutts averaging 800 kilometers a day.

By driving back Stanford said it saved a bit of money and dropped shipping time from four months to three weeks.

“We looked at quite a few and we got the better unit,” said Stanford.

On April 2 the Coutts Fire and Rescue held an open house to show off the new ambulance to the community.